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Volume 24 No. 159
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     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,
     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).