From Comcast SportsNet NEW YORK (AP) -- The NHL is hoping to turn Thanksgiving weekend into a hockey holiday as it did with New Year's Day. Looking to build on the success of the Winter Classic, which has quickly become a New Year's staple, the NHL announced on Wednesday a renewal of a multiyear partnership with Discover. The familiar credit card company will become the title sponsor of this year's "Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown," which takes place on the traditional shopping-heavy Friday after the holiday. The "Black Friday" matchup features the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings in an Original Six matchup on NBC. Discover and the NHL will also debut a co-sponsored float during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC as part of promotion for the game. "We are looking to build an entirely new platform around Thanksgiving and have it include not only a game broadcast but something more," said David Lehanski, the NHL's group vice president of integrated sales. "That (parade) is chock full of the most iconic brands. To be a part of that for hockey is great." Thanksgiving belongs to the NFL -- in the sports world -- much in the way college football has owned New Year's Day for generations. The 2012 Winter Classic, featuring the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, was bumped to Jan. 2 along with the bowl games because the NFL is playing a regular schedule the day before. The NHL isn't taking on the NFL on Thanksgiving, either, but the league and Discover are aiming to give hockey fans an appetizer with the parade, heading into the featured Friday game. "This was one of those ideas that had natural synergy," said Jennifer Murillo, the vice president of brand communications for Discover. "The whole idea came together through the partnership. "We know our card members are passionate hockey fans. As the idea materialized to create a new nationally televised game during Thanksgiving weekend, this was a natural extension for us." The Thanksgiving Friday game begins NBC's coverage of the NHL for this season. It is the league's earliest start date on network TV since NBC acquired hockey broadcast rights in 2005. An estimated 50 million viewers are expected to watch the parade on television. "We're proud to work with our partners at the NHL and participate in some of America's favorite holiday traditions, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and watching a great hockey matchup on NBC," Murillo said. The parade float, 36 feet long and by 20 feet wide and called "Frozen Fall Fun," will showcase the partnership between the NHL and Discover and include past NHL stars, a synthetic ice rink, a 12-foot tall turkey that serves as a hockey goal, and a colorful fall look. Grammy Award winner Cee-Lo Green will perform live on the float. "This is part of the overall strategy," Lehanski said. "The more events we can create, if they can be tied to holidays or high-level days when people are home watching television, if we can bring hockey to their faces, we're going to generate more fans." Discover will offer card members the chance to redeem their Cashback Bonus rewards for tickets to the upcoming Winter Classic in Philadelphia, and card members will also receive discounts to Shop.NHL.com, the NHL Powered by Reebok store in New York, and NHL GameCenter Live subscriptions. "Having a new ownership platform on a day that is synonymous with shopping was a natural fit to renew our partnership with Discover, but we wanted to make it even bigger," Lehanski said. Discover will remain the official card of the NHL, All-Star weekend, the Winter Classic, NHL awards, and the draft.
As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.
That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.
After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.
Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.
The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.
You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.
That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.
If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.
It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.
A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.
Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.
On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.
Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: