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Stanley Cup finals reel in great ratings here

This is what I'm thinking:
Playing to Buffalo... CBC analyst Don Cherry's debut on NBC's Stanley Cup finals coverage Monday certainly was a treat for Buffalo fans.

The "Hockey Night in Canada" star seemed to be practically playing to the Buffalo audience during his second intermission appearance. And why not? Buffalo is one of the few cities that considers the Anaheim-Ottawa finale a big TV event. Saturday's game had a 7.5 rating here, five times the average in metered markets. Channel 2 was easily the top-rated affiliate in the country for the game. It received higher ratings than anything else on Channel 2 over the weekend.

Buffalo also is certain to be No. 1 for Anaheim's 3-2 victory Monday over Ottawa in Game Four. The game averaged a 9.9 rating on Channel 2 and peaked with a 14.6 at the finish, making it the night's most-watched show here. That is sensational for hockey.
To support his theory that hockey should allow more fighting to juice ratings, Cherry displayed the page of a special sports section of The Buffalo News that ran before the Sabres-Ottawa series with the headline "Bad Blood." Then NBC ran some clips of the infamous fights during a February game between the Sabres and Senators.
Cherry was partially blaming NBC and U.S. networks for the outlawing of fighting. However, fighting has been out of the game far longer than NBC has been in it.
Cherry wasn't done endearing himself to Buffalo audiences, either. After he and NBC analyst Brett Hull disagreed on whether a Senators goal by Daniel Alfredsson in Game Three should have counted, Cherry sharpened his tongue. "You should talk with a foot in the crease," he told Hull.
"It was in legally," claimed Hull.
"Baloney. No way. Foot in the crease," replied Cherry. "Shouldn't have happened."
The exchange about Hull's winning goal in the 1999 finals between Dallas and Buffalo might have baffled those without Buffalo ties.
Ironically, Hull had this to say about Alfredsson's goal Saturday: "Do we trust the people making the decision on these goals? This is the Stanley Cup finals."
Wrapped in the flag... NBC is playing the patriotic card during the finals. Before Saturday night's Game Three, it made the unusual move of staying with Lyndon Slewidge, the Ontario provincial policeman who sings the Canadian and U.S. anthems. It also stayed with the anthems Monday when they were performed by Ottawa native Alanis Morissette. She may have more star power, but Slewidge has more voice and emotional power.
CBC always carries the anthems. U.S. networks carry the anthem before the Super Bowl but often use the time on other sports to sell commercials. I've always thought that was a mistake.
The patriotic anthem move is much more appealing than earlier NBC promos that talked about Anaheim's desire to keep the Cup in the States. That is unlikely to be much of a motivation for the Ducks, since the team has an international roster loaded with Canadians.
Poor reception... CBLT, the CBC affiliate out of Toronto, came in poorly here Saturday, which probably drove Buffalo viewers away from Hockey Night in Canada. A Time Warner representative said Saturday's problem resulted from a temperature change over Lake Ontario that was out of its control. That's a new one on me. The picture for Monday's Game Four was sharper, but inconsistent.
Dual coverage valuable... The dual NBC and CBC coverage gives viewers an opportunity to get different views of controversial plays, like the goal that Alfredsson kicked in Saturday night. Just about every CBC announcer thought it should have counted. Hull, Ray Ferraro and just about every NBC announcer thought it should have been disallowed. The NBC guys based their opinions on a New York Ranger goal that was disallowed in the series with the Sabres. The guy who made the most sense was Ferraro, who has repeatedly said that the kicking rule is a stupid one that should be discontinued.
The NBC guys also were much more critical of Alfredsson on Monday than the CBC crew after he blasted the puck at the Ducks' Scott Niedermayer in the final seconds of the second period. Hull called it "kind of a gutless play." Game analyst Eddie Olczyk said it was "classless."
In published post-game interviews, Alfredsson denied it was intentional.
Can't get away fast enough... You can tell how excited NBC is about carrying the finals. It signed off within seconds of game's end Saturday and Monday without staying for interviews. The low national ratings for the series should have been expected since Ottawa is in a market that doesn't count in the States and the games are starting in late afternoon in Anaheim.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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