SBD/Issue 172/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NHL Finals Could Start This Saturday With Detroit Win Tonight

If Red Wings Win Tonight Against Blackhawks,
Stanley Cup Finals Will Likely Start Saturday
The Penguins won the Eastern Conference championship last night and sources indicated that should the Red Wings win tonight's game against the Blackhawks to capture the Western Conference championship, the Stanley Cup Finals "likely would start on Saturday, May 30 in Detroit," according to E.J. Hradek of ESPN.com. The NHL in recent days has been "working behind the scenes with NBC" to adjust the original schedule that had the Finals beginning June 5 if "both Conference final series didn't end in four-game sweeps." However, with the Penguins sweeping the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals last night, the pushed-up schedule would again be in play. Hradek wrote the "possible change would spare the league an embarrassing, television-created, eight-day hiatus and the competitive nature of the playoffs wouldn't be compromised by an unusually long layoff for both clubs" (ESPN.com, 5/25).

TAKING CHARGE: FANHOUSE.com's Eric McErlain wrote playing Stanley Cup Finals Games One and Two on "back-to-back nights probably isn't ideal for the players, but it sure beats the heck out of dropping a one-week break into the midst of the playoff season." The NHL has "made a simple calculation: would the complete disappearance of the Stanley Cup finals from broadcast television in the U.S. cause more damage to the league than adjusting the schedule to the benefit of the rights holder? Cleary, they've decided the latter" (FANHOUSE.com, 5/25). In Detroit, Drew Sharp writes unless the Red Wings "bail him out with a series-closing victory tonight," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "could be staring at a long layoff -- maybe even six days -- between the conclusion of the conference finals and the start of the championship series." That is "insane, especially when the NHL finds itself in a direct championship series battle with the NBA." Bettman, "in some ways, is at the mercy of NBC." But "isn't it time that he and the rest of the league grow a backbone and tell all who care to listen that the NHL is never stronger than when it more vigorously advocates its marketing strengths?" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 5/27).

WATCH & LEARN: YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote the NHL is "currying a lot of good will lately." Ratings are "up appreciably, for one thing," and "more people are watching hockey on television than we've seen in years." ESPN writers like Bill Simmons and Gene Wojciechowski who "don't really have any reason to care about the sport and feel they haven't been given one in a good, long time are writing the equivalent of puff pieces on how wonderful the sport seems to them all of a sudden." But Wyshynski noted if the Stanley Cup Finals do not start until June 5, "we're looking at a ridiculous television-influenced decision" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/25).

SOMETHING'S MISSING: In Toronto, Gary Loewen wrote it "seems like weeks" since the Penguins and Capitals "battled in a thrilling playoff series." The conference finals, "by comparison, have been Dud Lite" (TORONTO SUN, 5/26). Also in Toronto, Garth Woolsey wrote Red Wings-Blackhawks, a matchup of two Original Six teams, has a "traditional feel, but there's no substitute for having a Canadian team still alive at this point in the Stanley Cup playoffs" (TORONTO STAR, 5/24).

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