This is what I’m thinking after the long holiday weekend:
I was somewhat surprised when the Buffalo Sabres chose WGR’s Paul Hamilton to do play-by-play of the season opener against Philadelphia Sunday rather than Kevin Sylvester when Hall of Famer Rick Jeanneret became ill.
After all, Sylvester works for the team and has a daily WGR show focused on the Sabres that is part of the team’s deal with the station.
But I guess it didn’t matter all that much since Sylvester worked the MSG and WGR simulcast of Monday’s game in Toronto when Jeanneret still wasn’t ready to go because of an undisclosed illness.
While most of WNY was watching the Sabres’ 5-2 win over Philadelphia on Channel 2, I was able to hear Hamilton’s radio call of Sunday’s game as I drove my youngest son back to college for the spring semester.
Though he doesn’t have the greatest voice, Hamilton was still very impressive. His enthusiasm level, his anticipation of goals and possible goals, and his ability to provide instant analysis alongside analyst Rob Ray were all top notch. And he did a good job drawing comments out of Ray, who is in his first year replacing Harry Neale as the Sabres’ top analyst.
One of Hamilton’s strongest moments occurred when he instantly noted something that became part of the narrative of post-game comments and Monday’s newspaper stories about the game – Drew Stafford’s uncharacteristic decision to stand up and fight Philadelphia’s Scott Hartnell after Hartnell’s questionable hit on Tyler Ennis.
Hamilton was all over it. He also anticipated one of Thomas Vanek’s goals and generally was on top of the play throughout.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been that pleasantly surprised since Hamilton has had plenty of play-by-play practice calling Niagara University games. In any event, three cheers for Hamilton. The Sabres say Jeanneret hopes to be ready for Thursday’s game in Carolina. I didn’t hear Sylvester’s call of the Toronto game but I’ve heard him do play-by-play in the past. Off of Sunday’s performance, Hamilton gets my vote to call more games any time Jeanneret can’t go.
Not terribly surprisingly, the local ratings for the NFL playoffs games Sunday topped the local rating for the Sabres’ win over Philly.
The Sabres-Flyers game had an impressive 22.0 rating on Channel 2, which NBC reported made it the highest-rated regular season game on the Buffalo affiliate in seven years, excluding Winter Classics. (I wrote on Saturday that a rating of 20 for the game would be impressive by regular season standards and it topped that by 10 percent). The game had a 1.4 national overnight rating, which was 27 percent higher than a corresponding game a year ago. As low as that rating is, the Philly-Sabres game tied a Feb. 19, 2012 game as the best overnight rating for a Sunday regular season network broadcast in 13 years, also excluding Winter Classics. ABC was carrying the NHL in 2000.
San Francisco’s come-from-behind win over Atlanta on Channel 29 for the NFC title had a 28.3 rating on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. Baltimore’s more decisive win over New England for the AFC title had a 29.6 rating on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate.
There were a couple of reasons for CBS’ higher rating even though the Baltimore-New England game wasn’t that competitive down the stretch. For one thing, games played in the evening generally get higher ratings than games in the afternoon. Secondly, many Buffalo fans certainly enjoyed seeing the Pats and quarterback Tom Brady stumble. In the final 75 minutes, the Ravens-Pats game had ratings in the 32.7-33.9 range even though the Pats trailed by more than two touchdowns.