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.
Not all losses are created equal.
When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.
By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.
The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.
An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.
“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”
There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.
The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.
The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.
After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.
“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”
Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”
That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.
“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”
In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.
But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.
“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.