With the Chicago Blackhawks facing the Philadelphia Flyers in the final, the NHL gets the 3rd and 4th largest television markets pitted against one another. Both cities have passionate fan bases that will certainly be ramped up for the action. But Cup Fever could spread across the U.S. as both cities can draw on historical allegiances as long time members of the NHL fraternity.
It also doesn’t hurt that some of the best playoff hockey in years in being watched by our good friends to the south in record numbers.[NBC] playoff coverage of the first three rounds drew an average overnight rating of 1.5 for the nine playoff games the network televised. This was up 14% from last year’s eight games, which averaged a 1.3.
I don’t know what all the numbers mean, but I am sure you can get a better education from Puck the Media. More people in Chicago watched the Hawks eliminate the Sharks in the afternoon, than the series finale of LOST and The Apprentice during prime time. All I know is, what they’re saying sounds like money in the bank for the NHL. Especially considering that ESPN has been kicking the tires about getting back into the hockey racket.
The NHL has long tried to sell its wares to U.S. audiences with marquee names with high skill level. The hype machine has been going full bore since both Crosby and Ovechkin entered the league. Beyond those two however, little has been done in promoting other high level talents by the local market in which they played. Finally U.S. hockey fans will get a better chance to see some of the most exciting young players in the league, they may have been introduced to during the Olympics.
Having the rejuvenated Chicago Blackhawks franchise led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane facing off against the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter led Flyers will just continue the stream of quality hockey.
Names may get people interested, but if you really want them to keep watching, you have to give them a quality product. Both teams feature high-end talent that can dazzle, but aren’t afraid to play the physical brand of hockey needed for a long playoff run. While the Wings and Pens gave us great drama the last couple of years, this series could surpass that by the intensity and excitement in each game. At least, that what I hope for.
Is it Saturday yet?
Joel MacDougall lives in Halifax and writes about all sports, both local and abroad. His website can be found at http://route19.wordpress.com/