Like Hockey East this morning, the Big Ten announced its full television schedule Monday.
The schedule for the most part is full of captivating contests leading up to the Big Ten Conference Tournament March 19-21 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit At least 33 games will be broadcast nationally, including 27 on BTN, and more on regional sports networks. It's a number that is slightly down from last year's inaugural slate which ended up showing 35 nationally televised games. NBCSN, which broadcast 5 B1G games in 2013-14, isn't doing the same this year. Some of those were picked by ESPNU/ESPNEWS, though.
Another 30+ games featuring the six Big Ten teams are scheduled to be shown on RSNs locally and BTN2Go.
Some "quick" thoughts on the schedule:
-As a whole, 2014-15 right now looks to be on par, if not exceed, college hockey on television nationally. All Notre Dame home games are either on NBCSN or aired online, with additional Hockey East games and the conference tournament also broadcast there. CBS Sports Network is reportedly showing 14 NCHC games over the second half of the year, which is in addition to the conference's online venture and letting teams back on FCS/Root Sports. ECAC is apparently getting at least one game back on ESPNU and the WCHA is rolling along with all conference games streamed.
Is it anywhere the level of basketball? No. Not even close. College hockey is a niche sport which on TV still toils somewhere in the basement, a filler programming mostly featuring the same teams. There are ways to watch most teams either online or on television with the exception of Atlantic Hockey. Ratings success or not, that is progress considering the last 5 years.
-The Hockey City Classic from Chicago between Michigan and MSU will be broadcast on BTN Feb. 7.
-BTN and ESPNU are doing a slightly better job of showing non-conference games this year. There were only two last season in a league where teams only play 20 of 34 against conference opponents. One of those, Penn State hosting Army, was a showcase for the first game played at Pegula Arena where that event superseded the actual contest.
This year the total is three games. All three feature Minnesota and two of the three games are a Nov. 7 & 9 weekend series where the Gophers host Notre Dame.
-The Big Ten isn't alone. The lack of nationally televised non-conference games is the biggest knock when it comes to broadcasts. Somewhere between the regional nature of college hockey and conference rights to the home team lies a problem where the promotion of a NC isn't as worthwhile as two conference teams. It's just frustrating when a conference begins play in late November and treats the first six weeks of the season as a non sequitur, or an equivalent of the shootout. The end result is that many name games go untelevised.
-Solid non-conference games not on television for one reason or another (subject to change): All 4 Icebreaker games featuring Notre Dame, Minnesota, UMD and RPI (2 ND games will be streamed online) Oct. 12 & 14, Providence @ Ohio State Oct. 11-12, New Hampshire @ Michigan Oct. 18, Michigan State at Boston University & UMass-Lowell Oct. 24-25, Minnesota @ St. Cloud State Oct. 31, Boston College @ MSU Nov. 14, Penn State-Cornell at MSG Nov. 29,
Some of these non-conference games could be the game of the week that weekend or the college hockey version of Gameday. Boston College hosts Minnesota and Michigan with neither game being on TV. Not even in Boston!
-Speaking of Minnesota, the Gophers are somehow both the cream of the TV crop and screwed out of games. Vintage Minnesota sports.
Only 27 of the Gophers' 36 games are scheduled to be broadcast (a 28th airs on tape delay), which is as low of a number I can recall in recent memory for a team that normally has almost every game on television. The catalyst for this is Fox Sports North cutting back from 19 to 12 Gopher games where the difference is that road games are a no go this time around. East Lansing and Duluth are afforded luxuries that have previously been given to Anchorage.
(As a comparison, last year's trip to Bemidji was broadcast on FSN, but maybe the WCHA is willing to play ball while NCHC isn't. Or it's possible both get added later when the National unveils its TV plans. Or people in the Twin Cities can watch the St. Cloud broadcast. It doesn't seem like a big trip although I'm not a TV production expert.)
Also, 8 of the 12 FSN games are on FSN+. 3 of those are Hockey Day Minnesota and the North Star College Cup.
-On the other hand, good news if you're a Gopher fan outside the Upper Midwest ebcause the 2014 national runners-up are going national. Don Lucia's team has 11 games on BTN. The "U" will appear on 4 of the 6 ESPNU/ESPNEWS games.
From a national perspective, a national presence on par with Notre Dame is an interesting storyline to follow. Minnesota has a huge fanbase when it comes to college hockey. (Minneapolis/St. Paul alone matched the 2013 title game TV ratings for the 2014 championship.) Spoiled or not, the atmosphere around Gopher nation is a surly one when the rare non-TV game happens. Just look at Penn State last season.
-Reigning Big Ten conference tournament winner Wisconsin also gets the national love with double digit appearances.
-ESPNU/ESPNEWS is not visiting the state of Michigan. Of the six games, two are in Columbus and State College while Minneapolis and Madison get one apiece. The Minneapolis ESPN game - the second game of the Minnesota-Notre Dame series at Mariucci Arena - is the first time the Worldwide Leader will broadcast a game since the B1G opener debacle.
-One of the highlights from last year are back in an abridged form. BTN Frozen Fridays will once again grace our TV screens for 8 straight weekends beginning in January. While the doubleheaders are only in February, that may be a good thing. The early (5:30 pm ET) and late (8:00 pm CT) starts can make it hard to watch both games on a Friday night. If it weren't for basketball, Saturday would be the better doubleheader day. As long as the intermission and post-game coverage, however, continues to be as outstanding as it was with one game instead of two, I'm okay.
-The made up games come at a different night and might be the best news. BTN will be expanding to show hockey games on Saturday.
-Total national games (not including FSN, FSD, FCS, STO, Wisconsin Public TV, Root Sports Rocky Mountain & NESN):
Ohio State: 8
Michigan State: 7
Penn State: 7
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate