Olympic Viewing: Hockey artistry and ballet tough love

Highlights from coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics:

BREAKFAST ON ICE: The breakfast-time women's hockey game between the U.S. and Canada Wednesday was a delight all around. It was tense and well-played (won by the Canadians, 3-2, with the help of a controversial goal call), and NBC's team performed, too. Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike "Doc" Emrick should never be taken for granted. His ability to anticipate moves, to convey information without crowding the airwaves and to build excitement is unparalleled. He clearly loves hockey, but doesn't treat it as a private club no one but devotees can enter. Toward the end of the game he noted school was in session in Eastern and Central North America and "when this is over, tell your teacher thank you" for showing it. All right, maybe he overstated the interest since it wasn't a gold medal game, but you have to love the enthusiasm.

EYE ON COSTAS: Bob Costas is shelved again from NBC's Wednesday night telecast because of his eye infection, with Matt Lauer subbing.

RATINGS: NBC doesn't just need good news for Americans to do well in the ratings. The network had 23.7 million viewers for its prime-time coverage on Tuesday, the night Shaun White failed in his attempt for a third straight gold medal in the halfpipe. That's well above the 20.3 million people who watched the corresponding night from Vancouver four years ago. Two mitigating factors: White did not compete the same night four years ago, and NBC faced stiff competition from "American Idol" in 2010.

IN THE MONEY: Strong ratings enabled NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus to say Wednesday the network is confident it will be "comfortably profitable" coming out of Sochi. NBC paid $775 million for the rights to the games, and expenses are in the $100 million range. National ad sales have exceeded $800 million, and that doesn't include local ad sales (NBC owns stations in some of the biggest markets). Success also means that ad inventory NBC held back from sale in case the network had to compensate current advertisers if ratings didn't meet projections can now be put on the market.

BOLSHOI: No coddling kids in Russia. During Mary Carillo's feature on how ballet influences figure skating in Russia, the head of the Bolshoi Ballet academy said that children without special talents shouldn't come to the school because "you'll ruin your life." Yikes!


David Bauder can be reached at dbauder@ap.org or on Twitter@dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder.