SBD/Issue 168/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Dream On: Penguins-Red Wings Finals Could Be Boon For The League

Penguins-Red Wings Matchup
Dream Scenario For NHL
If there is a "dream scenario for [NHL Commissioner Gary] Bettman to help recapture the casual fan," the Stanley Cup Finals matchup between the Penguins and Red Wings is it, according to Corey Masisak of the WASHINGTON TIMES. The matchup has "star power led by the league's most recognizable player," Penguins C Sidney Crosby, as well as two "great TV markets and two teams with at least some level of tradition." This season marks the first time since '00-01 both teams in the finals have previously won the Stanley Cup. The NHL has a chance to "build something it hasn't had in almost 15 years -- momentum." Masisak: "All the ingredients are in place for a classic. ... This is the NHL's best chance to begin regaining its footing on the nation's sports landscape. After years of hearing about what hockey is not or what is wrong with the league, this is a chance to showcase what is right" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/21).

PERFECT PAIR: SI.com's Michael Farber wrote under the header, "NHL Gets Wish With Dream Cup Final." After several finals matchups "that had less buzz than a circular saw, the NHL finds itself blessed with an Original Six team with national appeal and a worthy history playing a team with a great backstory and the most young talent in the NHL." Farber noted Crosby likely "will be the centerpiece of the final because the exposure of a long series ... can turn Crosby into a crossover star in a star-conscious country" (SI.com, 5/19). In Montreal, Red Fisher writes under the header, "Wings-Pens Matchup Made In NHL Heaven." Fisher: "What you have is a matchup to die for. ... The NHL couldn't have scripted a better finale" (Montreal GAZETTE, 5/21). In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher writes under the header, "Stars Align Perfectly For Final Showdown" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 5/21).

EASY TO MARKET: In L.A., Helene Elliott wrote the finals "will fulfill the NHL's marketing dreams -- and should be a memorable experience for fans too." The NHL, which has "seen a modest increase in its TV ratings this season ... should be grateful for such a bonanza" (L.A. TIMES, 5/20). In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote the matchup is a "gem, the best Stanley Cup final possible for the NHL." Whether anybody watches in the U.S. that "isn't in the Eastern time zone is anyone's guess, but these are two of the more popular U.S. teams, so the Wings and Pens have a chance to attract more eyeballs than did" the previous three finals series, which were won by the Ducks, Hurricanes and Lightning (TORONTO STAR, 5/20). Former NHL coach Jacques Demers, in a special to USA TODAY, writes the Stanley Cup Finals are "filled with stars. Though the NHL would never say so, this is their dream matchup." The Red Wings and Penguins are "what hockey in the post-lockout era is supposed to be about: great scoring chances, puck control, great passes." Demers: "As evenly matched as these teams are, the referees need to let the players play. Open the door to great hockey, and let the dice fall where they may. And the league will reap rewards in the ratings" (USA TODAY, 5/21).

Many Expecting Crosby's First Stanley Cup 
Finals Appearance To Give NHL Ratings Uptick
RATINGS BOON: The GLOBE & MAIL's William Houston writes for NBC and Versus, this series is the "best matchup in years." The Red Wings and Penguins represent "not huge, but major U.S. markets consisting of a hockey base that watches NHL telecasts in significant numbers." Crosby has achieved "something approaching a national profile in the [U.S.], thanks to heavy promotion by the NHL and NBC," and the Penguins rank as the "most talented young team to reach the final since" the Oilers in the '80s (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/21). In DC, Tim Lemke writes broadcasters are "salivating" over the matchup (WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/21). The L.A. TIMES' Elliott in a separate piece wrote Crosby is the NHL's "best hope for retaining loyal fans and attracting casual fans." Crosby has helped give the NHL a "pleasant and recognizable face and has inspired enough fans to search for Versus on their cable systems for the NHL to have gotten an uptick in its U.S. TV ratings" (L.A. TIMES, 5/20).

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