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HOCKEY -- THE SPORT OF THE '90S, OR THE SPORT OF 1994?
Published June 12, 1995
While the NBA Finals took center stage on prime-time last night, a double-overtime thriller in the NHL's Western Conference Final was relegated to ESPN2. The game was shown on local outlets in the Chicago and Detroit areas. But for other fans, who only got limited action after "Sunday Night Baseball," access to the game was clearly limited. Earlier on ESPN's "Sports Reporters," talk centered around hockey's proclaimed rise during last year's Stanley Cup, and the seeming drop in interest this year. Bob Ryan, on hockey vs. basketball: "The NHL is still on the second tier." Mike Lupica: "I think people mistook a hockey boom on 33rd and Seventh Avenue in New York City for a nation- wide hockey boom." Lupica added that Gary Bettman should be rooting for a Flyers win because the league "needs a star like Eric Lindros ... This guy could be a real hockey star in this country, and this sport needs it." John Feinstein: "The lockout happened, the owners blew it, you can't forget that. They had a great opportunity in October to get off to a flying start, with no baseball and the new Fox contract. Instead, they sat around and negotiated for three months then played this aborted 48-game season" More from Lupica: "It wasn't the sport of the '90s as they were hoping it would be, it's the sport of 1994" (ESPN, 6/11). NORTHERN BLIGHTS: In Toronto, Al Strachan calls this year's NHL playoffs a "debacle" and asks, "Can anyone remember a season in which the fans were so disinterested, so bored with the proceeedings." Strachan blames the league for giving in to Fox's desire for afternoon games: "Hockey fans do not see their sport as an afternoon game like tennis or soccer. It is a night game and it does not seem right to watch it at other times, whether an American network wants us to do so or not" (TORONTO SUN, 6/10). During the Flyers-Devils Game 4 on Saturday, CBC's Harry Neale called the league "inhumane" for making the teams play two games in two days. Neale: "They have to be more aware of the health of the players" (Rob Longley, TORONTO SUN, 6/12).