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PLAYOFF WATCH: NHL READY TO DROP PUCK ON CUP FINALS TONIGHT
Published June 4, 1996
Officials from the NBA, NHL and respective network partners say that they are pleased with the Finals match-ups. As NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay writes, "The NHL points to the growth of two new markets. The NBA has the Bulls' three stars preparing for a coronation. Ho hum" (NEWSDAY, 6/5). BETTMAN'S NOT BUYIN' IT: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS: "Might the ratings have been higher if Detroit played New York or Chicago played New York or L.A. played New York or Detroit or Chicago? Maybe they'd be higher. But I think the ratings will be strong for this series. We're already up 30% for these playoffs on both Fox and ESPN." Bettman said the Finals hold some "compelling stories" and he called the response in the two markets "gratifying because it tells us we have an opportunity to grow the sport by getting it greater exposure and taking it to new places" (Bob Kravitz, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 6/3). PUCKISH NUMBERS: In Boston, Jack Craig writes, "If ratings are the real test for television -- and they are -- neither Fox nor ESPN can be pleased with Florida-Colorado." Craig sees John Vanbiesbrouck as "the closest thing to a superstar to attract casual viewers" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/4). Also in Boston, Jim Baker reports Fox "has little hope" that ratings will top this year's "better-but-still-low" 2.6 peak rating (BOSTON HERALD, 6/3). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand likens Florida-Colorado to a "college bowl matchup." But he does note the assessment from Fox's Ed Goren that the ratings rise has been "sensational" -- Fox's playoff ratings are averaging a 2.4, up 26% from '95. Still, Hiestand notes, Fox's teen-oriented "In the Zone" MLB preview show gained a 2.3 overnight last Saturday (USA TODAY, 6/4). NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay notes the prime-time Game 1 could "outperform" Fox's MLB debut -- which got a 3.8 overnight (NEWSDAY, 6/4). In DC, Tony Kornheiser wonders if there is a net "large enough to catch all the Fox TV suits who are going to jump off the roof. ... The only recognizable names on both teams are the goalies, Roi and the Beezer; that sounds like a French sitcom" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/4). TWO VIEWS: In New York, Richard Sandomir writes, "Hockey is in its ascendancy on television -- a phrase that could not have been written without chortling five years ago." But NBC's Marv Albert says: "They go from a 1.5 to a 2.5 and make a big deal out of the percentages. You can't make the comparison to the NBA, which gets huge numbers. I hope the NHL does better, but there is a tendency by those who push them to distort the numbers" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/4). ALL AGLOW: Fox's Lou D'Ermilio reports that the FoxTrax System will work in Colorado (William Houston, GLOBE & MAIL, 6/4). There had been concern that the lighting at Denver's McNichols Arena would not be conducive to use of the enhanced puck system (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 6/3). FIRE, NOT ICE: Fox had the option to show Game 4 of the Panthers-Avalanche, but opted instead to air the second installment of "L.A. Firefighters," a new hour-long drama series that premiered last night (NEWSDAY, 6/4). "SWEEP" IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD: In Philadelphia, Mike Bruton notes of the NBA finals, "It's hard to imagine anything but a Chicago sweep." But NBC's Albert predicted there would be "drama" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/4). NBA NUMBERS: The Sonics-Jazz Game 7 on NBC Sunday gained a 13.7/24 in preliminary overnights, according to Nielsen Sports Marketing Service. Seattle showed a 33.9/68 (Salt Lake City is not one of Nielsen's 33 metered markets). Ratings and shares from other top NBA markets: Chicago 24.9/43; San Antonio 22.3/36, Portland 19.7/46, Phoenix 19.4/37, Houston 17.1/29, Sacramento 16.8/32, Orlando 16.0/24, L.A. 15.2/33, San Francisco 14.1/35 (THE DAILY).