NHL Playoff Ratings Could See New Highs If League Gets Cross-Country Stanley Cup Final
The "harshest critics" of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman must "take a look at what is transpiring in these playoffs and wonder if [he] is on some kind of roll," according to Jeff Blair of the GLOBE & MAIL. The hockey has "on many nights been a mundane festival of shot blocking and is over-coached to the point of tedium but the only people noticing seem to be Canadian hockey fans, and as the NHL knows they’ll watch paint dry if it’s sponsored by the NHL." Now, Bettman can "see a dream final for U.S. television: the New York Rangers against the Los Angeles Kings." It is the matchup that "every league in every sport desires." A cross-country Stanley Cup Final "between the two biggest TV markets would be an astounding marketing confluence." Blair writes, "The hand-wringers wondered what it meant that ratings took off against the background of early-round thuggery, but those ratings have largely held firm as the mayhem has dissipated. ... If Bettman gets his dream final and really has solved financial issues in Phoenix, St. Louis and New Jersey, he will go into a summer of collective bargaining with a spring" in his shoes (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/14). In Toronto, Damien Cox writes, "What we have left, to say the least, is a most unusual group of conference semifinalists, with the distinct possibility that the Cup final could produce the first New York-L.A. matchup in league history, the kind of matchup that every other major sports league would love to have." Based on regular-season results and the first two rounds of the playoffs, a Rangers-Kings final "is what we should see." But in a year when "making predictions has simply been a way to look foolish, Coyotes-Devils is just as possible" (TORONTO STAR, 5/14).
NETTING A WIN: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin notes the last time the NHL "was riding this high, in the estimation of American public opinion anyway, was during the spring of 1994 when the New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in 54 years." Much is "being made in some corners of the ascension in NHL playoff ratings and the concurrent decline in the NBA’s ratings during its just-completed first round." The NHL is "not about to surmount the NBA in popularity based on this year’s ratings." The NBA is still "comfortably ahead of the NHL on all the judges’ cards," but the first three weeks of the NHL playoffs on NBC "were the most-viewed on network TV" since '98. A Rangers-Kings final series "would no doubt set new benchmarks for the leauge" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/14).
DEAD PUCK ERA? In Montreal, Jack Todd writes under the header, "NHL Playoffs Are Boring." Todd writes, "Halfway through the playoffs, a dozen series played, four teams left standing -- and we’ve seen exactly one entertaining series," the Flyers-Penguins first-round matchup. Todd: "My New NHL looks suspiciously like My Old NHL, circa 1997. Yeah, the games are close. Ever watched a nil-nil soccer game? They’re close, too. Doesn’t mean they’re fun." The new NHL was "supposed to be all about movement, skating, offence and talent." Right now it is "about obstruction, shot blocking, grinders and boredom" (Montreal GAZETTE, 5/14).