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If you thought the ratings weren't bad enough ...

Sunday, May 28, 2006
... just wait for the finals to start.

Hopefully what I say won't be taken the wrong way, as I mean no offense to the Edmonton Oilers and their many fans north of the border. Their Herculean efforts to push through to the Stanley Cup Finals as the 8th seed -- in the process becoming the first 8th seed to ever do so -- is nothing short of amazing, and deserves full marks. This is the kind of parity that Gary Bettman wanted to see with the new CBA in place, and a more levelled playing field amongst the teams. This is the kind of "against all odds" story that the league was dying for.

What he and the league didn't want to see, though, was a Canadian team representing either conference.

There has been a lot of talk about how a lack of big market teams remaining in the NHL playoffs has had this dreadful impact on the ratings on television. About how things have taken a nasty nosedive due to the bevvy of small market teams that moved on to the semifinals, and then even smaller markets moving on to the Conference Finals. But that can be overcome when it comes to ratings in the United States, after all. Two U.S. hockey markets are two U.S. hockey markets, regardless of their size. So even if there is a lack of ratings in areas beyond the general region of those markets, you still have two home bases to pull viewership from.

But not this year (and for that matter, not during the last finals either). With the Oilers now locked in to represent the West, you'll be looking at probably even worse numbers in the states compared to if Anaheim and either Buffalo or Carolina made it through the playoff gauntlet. Casual and fringe fans of the sport will not tune in to see either the Sabres or Hurricanes, and as sad as it is, Edmonton will hardly pull in anyone -- if anyone at all -- in the states.

Will this be a big draw in Alberta? Or all of Canada for that matter? Of course. The Oilers have become "Canada's team", if you've been reading the news.

Don't misunderstand me, though. If this had been any playoff year besides this one, it would be a different story altogether. The NHL is still in a tenuous position after its comeback from a lock-out, and what it needed most of all was two American teams in the finals to grab more than one market -- big or small -- in the country. It could have been San Jose, Nashville, or even Tampa Bay a second time (dynasties do tend to grow the popularity of a team, regardless of the sport). All that mattered was that it had to be two markets in the states, where the sport is in desperate need of coverage and viewership.

However that will not be the case. Either way, I am no apologist when it comes to my love for hockey, and I would watch the finals even if it turned out to be an all-Canadian team finals. Why? Because I love this game. There's no sport better than this one, and I wish more people felt that way about it.

I'm just concerned about the ramifications that this will have for the final ratings for the playoffs, and long-term effects if the Oilers do end up winning it all.
  • At 6:24 PM, Blogger Hawspipe said…

    I don't know about the casual fan, but I've found this playoff year pretty exciting. The rule changes have proved wise, I think, and an underdog is always good for the mix. In regard to the latter, Edmonton resident Colby Cash is arguing that the Oiler's success hasn't really surprised him. Normally I'd be disinclined to believe someone making this argument about his hometown 8th seeded team making it to the Cup finals, especially considering that they only slipped into the playoffs thanks to a large number of points for overtime losses, but Cash has a way of being persuasive.

    Cool blog, by the way. I can never get enough hockey reading material.

  • At 8:45 AM, Blogger Michael Turner said…

    Oh, I've found these playoffs extremely exciting, too. It's been a great showcase for the rule changes, and how open the game has become while at the same time the referees staying more or less consistent with the calls they've been making.

    I'll give Cosh the benefit of the doubt about the Oilers, inasmuch that they haven't surprised me in the semi-finals and conference finals and their success in those series. But I really don't think that any one would have been able to predict their success over the Red Wings. I'd been following the Oilers a little before the end of the regular season, and it really felt like they were limping in to the playoffs, and while Roloson was an improvement to the goalie situation, he wasn't secure in his playing.

    It's almost like something clicked halfway through the series with the Wings, both for Rollie and for the whole team.

  • At 10:47 AM, Blogger Hawspipe said…

    I called him Cash. Twice. Alcohol may have been a factor.

  • At 10:58 AM, Blogger Michael Turner said…

    Hah! No problem. I went back and had to change my comment to get his name right, too. Calling him "Cash" ended up being infectious since I was half-asleep responding this morning.

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About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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