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Game 1 of Cup Final benefits from NBA inaction

The National Hockey League owes LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers a big thank you.

Let me explain.

Pittsburgh's 5-3 victory over Nashville in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final had an 8.2 rating in Buffalo Monday night, which was 40 percent higher than the 5.8 rating for Pittsburgh's 3-2 win over San Jose in Game 1 on the same night a year ago.

That's pretty impressive and bound to make Buffalo No. 3 or No. 4 among all markets for the game.

But the game a year ago was competing with Game 7 of Golden State's Western Conference victory over Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City. The hockey game on NBC had a 5.8 rating here, the basketball game a 5.6 rating on cable. The basketball game started an hour later than the hockey game.

If James and Cleveland hadn't taken care of the Boston Celtics in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals and the series had been extended to game 7, the deciding game would have been, you guessed it, opposite Monday night's hockey game.

Much of the 40 percent gain here for Game 1 can be attributed to the lack of significant sporting competition compared to a year ago. But I am pretty sure than the National Hockey League and NBC won't mention what a difference a year makes in the schedule.

The ratings for games 2 and 3 of the Pittsburgh-Nashville series should dramatically decrease because those games will be carried on cable's NBCSN rather than the broadcast network.

NBC's treatment of hockey was illustrated by how quickly it signed off after the end of Game 1 to allow its affiliates like Channel 2 to go to local news. All the post-game coverage immediately shifted to NBCSN.

Even more amusing was the analysis by NBC's Eddie Olczyk of the Pittsburgh challenge of an early Nashville goal on the belief a Predator player was offsides.

Olcyzk was pretty certain the goal was going to stand after repeated looks at the play. His explanation certainly made sense. But the goal was disallowed.

At that point, you might have expected Olcyzk to join the chorus of NHL writers and fans who think offsides challenges are ridiculous.

When I didn't hear Olcyzk instantly cry foul, I instantly changed the channel. (I returned when the game was tied, 3-3.)

The only thing more ridiculous than coaching challenges on plays like that might be announcers who protect the league from embarrassment.



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