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At least when it comes to hockey, the University of Maine is turning into a marquee attraction, sports’ silver screen version of Matthew McConaughey.
The Black Bears will appear in almost 33 percent of the Hockey East games being televised this season, and that’s saying something considering this season’s total number of national, regional and local telecasts is a record (76).
Maine leads the league in TV appearances this season with 22: 12 local, five regional, and five national. Its first comes tonight on Fox Sports Net North, a regional Midwest/Great Lakes network. Fans in Maine will be able to see the game only on select satellite TV systems that get FSN North.
New Hampshire is next with 20, Boston University with 17 (18 if it plays in the Beanpot Tournament final), and Boston College has 11 (12 including Beanpot final).
“Maine and UNH have a good combination of being a good, solid program year in and year out and being kind of the only game in town,” said Brion O’Connor, Hockey East director of public relations. “There’s a lot of interest already, but it’s a regional thing where there’s a strong sense of loyalty to those programs, both from alumni and people who live in the surrounding communities.”
Maine is scheduled to appear 11 times on Bangor television station WABI (Channel 5), three times on College Sports TV, twice on New England Sports Network, twice on ESPNU, once on FSNN, once on Comcast’s CN8, once on New Hampshire public television, and once on CoxSports network.
“The fact is there is a demand,” O’Connor said. “WABI wants those games because they have an audience for them and it’s a winning program that engenders a lot of interest and excitement. In the end, it’s a lot about winning.”
WABI program director Steve Hiltz said this is the highest number of regular season UMaine hockey games his station has ever scheduled. The fact that the ratings are strong for Black Bear hockey telecasts is a big factor.
“You know what it is? It’s the success of the hockey team and it continuing to be the most successful program of all the ones we televise, plus the subsequent interest that success generates,” Hiltz said.
Although strong ratings are a major incentive for an increase in the number of telecasts, Hiltz said there are other key factors allowing his station to do so many games despite CBS programming commitments.
“We’ve had a lot of pre-emptions over the years with high school sports and I think much of this increase comes from the air time we have available that was previously given to the basketball tournament,” he explained. “I think another thing that works for us is our track record of pre-emptions for local sports programming of network broadcasts and how we’re able to have this kind of cooperative relationship with CBS.
“They really have been good over the years with us because they understand the University of Maine relationship.”
Bears battle Towson on NESN
Saturday’s Atlantic 10 Football Conference game between the University of Maine and Towson University at Towson, Md., will air live on New England Sports Network.
ESPN and Atlantic 10 Network announcer Bob Picozzi will handle play-by-play with former New York Giants quarterback Scott Brunner serving as color commentator.
Kickoff is 3 p.m. as the 4-0 Tigers play the Bears (2-2) for the first time since 1991. Bangor all-sports radio station WZON (620 AM) and WZON Internet (zoneradio.com) will also broadcast the game live.
Andrew Neff can be reached at 990-8205, 1-800-310-8600 or at email@example.com