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NHL’s ratings and general fan-enthusiasm on ice

Andrew Harley

When I asked my girlfriend her opinion on which hockey team is going to win the Stanley Cup Finals, she said, “I don’t even know who’s playing, babe. Sorry.”

So, I informed her that Calgary and Tampa Bay were in the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals.

“Probably Calgary.”

Why?

“Because they’re from Canada,” she said and laughed snidely for an extensive period.

To be honest, I’ve never really followed NHL hockey very closely. I’ve always preferred the volatile tedium and summer traditions of baseball and the poetry of basketball to the cold, steely brutality of professional hockey.

Having been raised in Oklahoma, I’ve always been a Sooners fan. The Sooners play a lot of sports well – basketball, baseball, golf. But, let’s face it, most of Oklahoma’s athletic supplements (on both sides of the law) are eternally reserved for the football team.

That being said, I went out to try and find someone who could tell me what the story is with this year’s Stanley Cup Finals, and returned with a lot of question marks and a feeling of general disappointment passed on by high-country hockey folk.

It has come to my attention that the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Calgary Flames are not quite as popular as the Colorado Avalanche in these parts. Furthermore, The Lightning and the Flames aren’t really that popular period.

To make matters worse, the Flames and the Lightning are supposed to be two of the worst teams in the NHL according to the economics of the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Yankees.

“I think the teams that are in right now have the lowest payroll in the NHL. The Red Wings had $75 million and couldn’t score in two games,” said Detroit’s own Steve Webber. “It’s the same with the Avs. The Avs have an unbelievably high payroll, and the players couldn’t put it together. So now you got Calgary and Tampa Bay, and they’re both teams who’ve got unbelievably low payrolls. They’re going after it.”

Webber, who’s been following hockey since 1967, and Paddy’s bartender Jennifer Brosch share their sorrows over their beloved, overly-pampered Red Wings team.

“Nobody cares about these teams. Nobody wants to watch,” said Brosch.

Other fans weren’t as bitter, but still weren’t satisfied.

“I’ve been watching it for 25 years and listening to it on the radio since 1967. It’s when I lived in Boston … Bobby Orr!” said Avs fan Ry Southard. “I actually haven’t been paying attention. I think it’s tied, but that’s all I know. I only watch the Avs. I don’t pay attention to anyone else. I support the home team, wherever that is.”

So the NHL faces a possible strike, but the players will be in a tight spot considering the sub-par buzz and relatively poor television ratings surrounding this year’s Stanley Cup. And the strike will leave a bad taste in some people’s mouths, but I’m sure hockey will be fine. After all, the Red Wings might face the Avs next year for the finals.

Andrew Harley can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or at aharley@vaildaily.com.


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