So yesterday the NHL announced two possible start dates for the Stanley Cup Final Game One: Thursday May 28th or Friday June 5th.
Now May 28th would have only been possible if both the Penguins and the Wings sweep the series, with Chicago's OT win last night, the sweeps didn't happen. So, regardless of when the conference Finals end, the Stanley Cup game one won't start will June 5th. Let's say the Penguins sweep their series, and the Wings win the next two, this series will end on Weds May 27th, leaving 9 freaking days of NO HOCKEY!
Thank you Gary Bettman.
Now I know that the NHL is most likely just bending to the networks request, ahem, NBC because they have nothing else to broadcast on Friday or Saturday night on June 5th, and will broadcast game 1 and 2 if Bettman succumbs to their demands. But if you are trying to keep the casual fan who has just jumped on the playoff bandwagon watching, you do not throw in a 9 day break. Casual American fans will start watching baseball, or go on vacations or watch So You Think You Can Dance.
Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun estimates that if finals goes seven games, the final game could be on June 16th. If the NHL wants to stay within the June 15th written-in-stone pledge, they would have to play back to back games.
Not only is this bad for fans who are watching the game, I think this is just becoming too long for the players. The physical toll on the players for playing this late in the year and emotional toll from being away from their families even long will not bode well.
The only way this may help grow hockey is the possible avoidance of the NBA finals, which will not subject the viewers from having to choosing one over the other.
So Bettman, will having games 1 and 2 on NBC really grow the sport that much? Or perhaps the loss of fans who are already watching the playoffs and bail for the final series do to the absence hurt it? Couldn't you have got a deal with NBC that plays perhaps games 3 and 4?