Putting a rest to the Stanley Cup “controversy”

Clearly, I am missing something here.  The National Hockey League, beleaguered, bewildered and just barely hanging on to the attention of the average sports fan (much less the casual sports fan) has a chance to showcase its best most marketable player and its most historic team in a Stanley Cup rematch (the league’s first in 25 seasons) between Sidney Crosby‘s Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings.

And NBC is capitalizing on the sudden ending of both teams’ series this week to broadcast back-to-back games this weekend.  Sounds like a perfect move, instead of waiting out a few extra days in the sports news cycle.  This is a sport that needs all the help it can get.  And I say that as a fan of the fantastic post-season that defines the NHL.

Yet, instead of embracing the uniqueness of the first back-to-back Stanley Cup games in 54 years (in primetime, on national television no less), there is a strange sentiment that Commissioner Gary Bettman should have demanded something different.

Michael Farber of SI.com speaks for many when he decries the “wacky Cup final schedule” and Deadspin takes the position that NBC’s Conan O’Brien, of all people, ruined the Stanley Cup Finals.  Yes, I get that the Deadspin story is pseudo-tongue-in-cheek, but I simply don’t understand the rush to look for a bad guy here, whether it be Bettman or NBC sports chairman Dick Ebersol.

"Hey, leave me out of this"

"Hey, leave me out of this"

The bigger story here is that NBC, airing Jay Leno’s last night at the Tonight Show desk tonight, will be able to promote a full weekend of hockey during the show.  And getting this series started while the buzz over the Conference Finals is still fresh might prove to be a fateful decision. 

The fact that NBC wants to protect the launch of Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show takeover next week is completely understandable and makes the fact that they worked with the NHL to get these games on in the lead-up to his show all the more impressive, considering the stakes involved with promoting his first week.

When ESPN’s sports barometer, Bill Simmons, is talking up the NHL again, you know something’s in the air.  And this is a great matchup, with no sure favorite, along with a likelihood to go 6 or 7 games (all but Games 3 & 4 on NBC, by the way).

So leave Conan out of it and enjoy the fact that the Finals might actually stumble into some relevance outside of Pittsburgh and Detroit with the additional exposure.  Sidney Crosby spit in the face of tradition this week – I applaud Bettman and the NHL for doing the same with the schedule.

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~ by acm213 on May 29, 2009.

2 Responses to “Putting a rest to the Stanley Cup “controversy””

  1. The fans are ticked because the shortened schedule means that some of the best players will not have a chance to rest and heal from the last round of the playoffs and will not have a chance to rest between Games 1 and 2.. It is also a major disadvantage to the Wings since these back to back games happen when they have home ice, something they earned by winning the regular season, but the Penguins home games are spread out. Game 2 is likely to be a dud since both teams will be exhausted from Game 1, especially if it goes into overtime. No other sport has back to back games like this in the playoffs. The league is suffering because of decisions like this that are not in the best interest of the long-term success of hockey. Bettman’s got to go.

  2. you lost me when you claimed crosby was the best player in the league….

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