At this time no. The #WHL and Root Sports don’t have a deal this season. Disappointing.
— Ian Furness (@IanFurnessSea) January 1, 2016
Update: This post was originally published on December 20th, 2014. As mentioned by Ian Furness on Twitter on December 31, 2015, the agreement between the WHL and Root Sports Northwest has not been renewed for the 2015-16 season. This post has been updated to include last seasons games.
Usually after the turn of the calendar to the new year, Root Sports Northwest (RS-NW) announces their WHL broadcast schedule, known as Friday Night Ice. In the past, it has been a 6 to 10-game schedule, mostly consecutive Friday nights but also on a weekday if the schedule allows. Games originating from US Division rinks are produced by RS-NW and have the broadcast team of Ian Furness (play-by-play), Kevin Sawyer (color commentary), and Kevin Uretzky (rinkside reporter). Games that are played outside the US are usually retransmissions of the Shaw feed from Canada. (As an aside, WHL games on RS-NW are also shown live on Root Sports Rocky Mountain and Root Sports Pittsburgh. New this season is Root Sports Southwest and one would reasonably assume WHL games would be shown live there as well.)
Before we look to the future, we’ll take a look at the past 7 seasons of the WHL on US cable television and how it’s changed.
In 2008, the WHL and what was then known as Fox Sports Northwest (FS-NW) signed a one year deal to broadcast 6 WHL games. FS-NW only produced 2 games, both in Portland. Ian Furness was on play-by-play with Andy Kemper (then the radio voice for the Winterhawks) on color for the New Years Eve game while Ian was joined by John Kirby (a rinkside radio reporter for the Winterhawks) for the January 16th game.
- Dec 31 2008 Seattle @ Portland
- Jan 13 2009 Tri-City @ Chilliwack (Shaw broadcast)
- Jan 16 2009 Spokane @ Portland
- Feb 6 2009 Lethbridge @ Seattle (Shaw broadcast)
- Feb 8 2009 Vancouver @ Seattle (Shaw broadcast)
- Feb 24 2009 Spokane @ Vancouver (Shaw broadcast)
As you can see, the only home games were for Seattle and Portland. Seattle got two from Shaw because it was the first season of the ShoWare Center and the WHL wanted to show off its newest building. Apart from any playoff series they have shown, that might be the last time a Shaw broadcast originated from a US rink.
2009 brought a multi-year agreement and along with that deal, more games. The deal called for 10 games to be broadcast each season. The expanded schedule allowed for each team to be shown at least once and for all teams to have at least one home game broadcast. However, the lone Seattle home game was not shown live and Spokane’s 2nd home appearance was also tape-delayed. With the production of the divisional games by Fox Sports, it also introduced the team that would become the voice of hockey on television in the US Division: Ian and the 2 Kevins.
- Jan 8 2010 Everett @ Seattle
- Jan 13 2010 Portland @ Kamloops (Shaw broadcast)
- Jan 15 2010 Everett @ Chilliwack (Shaw broadcast)
- Jan 22 2010 Everett @ Portland
- Jan 29 2010 Seattle @ Spokane
- Feb 5 2010 Seattle @ Portland
- Feb 12 2010 Spokane @ Everett
- Feb 19 2010 Everett @ Tri-City
- Mar 5 2010 Seattle @ Kelowna (Shaw broadcast)
- Mar 12 2010 Tri-City @ Spokane
The 2010-2011 season brought another 10 game schedule, 7 of which were produced by FS-NW. The lineup included games featuring all 5 US Division teams and at least 1 home game from each. However, the Kootenay at Spokane game was not from Spokane Arena but Avista Stadium as they broadcast the WHL’s first outdoor game. Unfortunately, the game was not shown live.
- Jan 14 2011 Everett @ Seattle
- Jan 15 2011 Kootenay @ Spokane
- Jan 28 2011 Portland @ Tri-City
- Feb 2 2011 Everett @ Kamloops (Shaw broadcast)
- Feb 4 2011 Spokane @ Tri-City
- Feb 18 2011 Seattle @ Vancouver (Shaw broadcast)
- Feb 25 2011 Portland @ Everett
- Mar 4 2011 Seattle @ Portland
- Mar 8 2011 Tri-City @ Kamloops (Shaw broadcast)
- Mar 18 2011 Everett @ Portland
In 2011-2012, Fox Sports Northwest was no more and was renamed Root Sports Northwest (RS-NW). It was also the first and only season that the broadcasts were titled “Friday Night Hockey”. The schedule was 10 games again with 7 being produced by RS-NW. It was the first season since FS-NW started producing games that all games were shown live. All 5 teams were featured at least once and each got at least one home game.
- Jan 6 2012 Seattle @ Tri-City
- Jan 13 2012 Tri-City @ Vancouver (Shaw broadcast)
- Jan 20 2012 Spokane @ Tri-City
- Jan 27 2012 Tri-City @ Red Deer (Shaw broadcast)
- Feb 3 2012 Everett @ Portland
- Feb 10 2012 Everett @ Vancouver (Shaw broadcast)
- Feb 17 2012 Tri-City @ Seattle
- Feb 24 2012 Spokane @ Portland
- Mar 2 2012 Seattle @ Everett
- Mar 16 2012 Seattle @ Spokane
The 2012-2013 season was the start of a new contract and that saw a reduction of the number games broadcast. Only 6 games were shown and just 3 were produced by RS-NW, the lowest of any season since the original productions started. “Friday Night Hockey” became “Friday Night Ice”, a title it still has today. All 5 US Division teams were featured but only 3 had home games shown.
- Jan 11 2013 Tri-City @ Kelowna (Shaw broadcast)
- Jan 18 2013 Seattle @ Everett
- Feb 1 2013 Spokane @ Kamloops (Shaw broadcast)
- Feb 8 2013 Portland @ Kelowna (Shaw broadcast)
- Mar 8 2013 Everett @ Spokane
- Mar 15 2013 Seattle @ Portland
2013-2014 had an increase in games, both total shown and produced by RS-NW, compared to the 2012-13 season. All 5 US Division teams were featured and all but Tri-City had a home game broadcast.
- Jan 28 2014 Spokane @ Kamloops (Shaw broadcast)
- Jan 31 2014 Tri-City @ Edmonton (Shaw broadcast)
- Feb 7 2014 Spokane @ Seattle
- Feb 14 2014 Portland @ Kamloops (Shaw broadcast)
- Feb 21 2014 Seattle @ Everett
- Feb 28 2014 Tri-City @ Everett
- Mar 7 2014 Seattle @ Portland
- Mar 14 2014 Tri-City @ Spokane
In what was apparently the final season of the WHL and RS-NW partnership, the 2014-15 looked a lot like the previous season as there were 8 games shown, 5 of which were produced by Root Sports. Each US Division team was featured at least once and each had a home game broadcast.
- Jan 16 2015 Tri-City @ Vancouver (Shaw broadcast)
- Jan 23 2015 Everett @ Kelowna (Shaw broadcast)
- Feb 6 2015 Portland @ Seattle
- Feb 20 2015 Tri-City @ Everett
- Feb 27 2015 Spokane @ Tri-City
- Mar 6 Seattle @ Portland
- Mar 13 2015 Portland @ Spokane
- Mar 20 2015 Everett @ Victoria (Shaw broadcast)
All together, over the 7 years that the WHL was on FS-NW/RS-NW, 58 games were shown. Of those 58, 36 were produced locally and the rest were simulcasts of Shaw broadcasts.