Hockey on national TV south of the border dates to 1956-57, when the Columbia Broadcasting System [CBS] entered into a four-year deal with the NHL – games in the old six-team league telecast on Saturday afternoons with New York sportscaster Bud Palmer and Boston hockey voice Fred Cusick.
The NHL had almost no presence on U.S. national TV in the ’60s, which became prime in the league’s decision to double in size in the Great Expansion of 1967. Added to the existing clubs (Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York Rangers, Montreal, Toronto) were six American-based franchises (California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues): broadening the NHL’s reach – most importantly for television – to the populous west coast.
It paid off in a six-year arrangement with CBS to televise a Game of the Week – usually an early-Sunday matinee – beginning after the Super Bowl in mid-January and continuing through the duration of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The inaugural telecast originated from here in Los Angeles, when CBS showed the first-ever hockey game at the Forum in suburban Inglewood: a 4 p.m. EST start between the L.A. Kings and Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 30, 1967.