After Monday Morning Nostalgia Fix wrote about the history of the Penguins’ radio and TV network, PBRTV reader Tom Wash asked:
“I have a question that I hope you can answer. I could swear I remember watching the 1975 Penguins playoff series with the Islanders, especially that sad game 7, on TV but a friend of mine says they were not on TV back then. He says he had to listen to it on the radio. Can you resolve this debate for me and give me details like what channel broadcast the game? I was 15 at the time and my memory is deteriorating so maybe I am just imagining it. Many thanks if you can answer this.”
We live to serve, Tom. Your friend seems to be right — we’ve looked through the local TV listings for April 26, 1975, and don’t see any evidence that any Pittsburgh TV station was carrying the game.
The game wasn’t blacked out because of lack of attendance — newspaper articles from the next day report a “sell out crowd at the Civic Arena” for Game 7 — but it is evidence of a general lack of interest in hockey in the 1970s, at least among TV executives.
(In fact, although NBC recently renewed its contract with the NHL, TV ratings for hockey in the U.S. have never been great by football, basketball, baseball and even NASCAR standards. Game 3 of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals scored one of the lowest ratings in network prime-time history.)
It’s also indicative of the Penguins’ shaky status in those days. One article we found by Mike Hasch in the Uniontown Morning Herald notes that Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty attended the game carrying a sign that said “Go Penguins — I Believe.”
Wrote Mike: “The mayor, who has been active in the campaign to keep the financially troubled Penguins in Pittsburgh, drew a standing ovation from the crowd.”
(He also notes that “an ugly incident” occurred in the third period when someone threw a whiskey bottle onto the ice, “followed by a brief melee in the stands between Islanders and Penguins rooters.” It reminds me of the time that I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out.)
Anyway, Tom, you’re correct that the Pens lost Game 7 of the 1975 quarterfinals. The Islanders’ Ed Westfall scored the only goal in New York’s 1-0 win … and Pittsburghers who didn’t have tickets could only follow the action on KDKA (1020).
Things are have changed for the better for TV sports fans … and we think they’ve changed for the better for the Penguins, too!
And meanwhile, as we all await Game 3 tomorrow night, here’s something from the archives. It’s a commercial from Oct. 12, 1973, promoting a telecast over WIIC-TV (11) of the Pens’ first game of the season, on the road versus the Atlanta Flames. The Penguins won that game, 4-3.
You’ll also hear a promo for the WIIC-TV news with Eleanor Schano and the WIIC “movie of the week” … Elvis Presley in the 1962 box-office stiff, “Follow That Dream.”
We’re following our own dream … that after Game 4, Elvis will have left the building. Let’s go Pens!
- WIIC-TV promos, Oct. 1973 (MP3, 1.5MB)