In the article, columnist Alan Pergament wrote about how the networks needed the Sabres to win in order to raise ratings. In it, Pergament gives off the numbers for Game Six and Seven and states that the Buffalo audience accounted for 30% of the audience for OLN. Even with all that, this is what struck me as a little....sour grapes-ish, maybe:
During the Carolina series, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that he wasn't concerned that two small markets would be playing in the finals. "This is about quality players, quality teams on the ice, not about market," he said.
Of course, he had to say that. But NHL leaders are aware that the only areas that really care about the playoffs are in the markets that are still playing. That's why OLN benefited as much as Adelphia when a deal was made during the playoffs to carry the games on basic cable here. The bigger the market the better the ratings. Even if every household in Buffalo were tuned in, it wouldn't make a 1 rating nationally.
Buffalo still likely will finish in the top two nationally in the ratings even without the Sabres. It wouldn't be a total shock if ratings here for the finals were still higher than those in Raleigh.
Of course, I'll say that Raleigh isn't that big of a hockey hotbed. I'm sure some fans will tell you the same thing-- yet they are learning. This was a great year for the Canes and it really hasn't been much overshadowing the achievements. I can understand why teams like the Hurricanes and the Nashville Predators can be the whipping boys of the NHL when it comes to knowledge of the game with their fans and low ratings; but couldn't it be ignorance of thoses who claim to be fans of the game as a whole??
Some people look down their nose to unusual markets, and sometimes they are right. Even so, what makes them superior to those in the markets?? Some, at least, are making an attempt to learn the game and take it in to expand their sports lexicon. The more that beat writers in "elite" hockey cities beat down the unusual markets, the less and less involved the fans will be. In the end, it doesn't help the "elite" teams at all. If anything, it hurts the game as whole to people who may not have been brought up with it, but are open-minded enough to learn more about it and try to understand to the best of their ability.
This may come off as a fluff piece, but there comes a time when you have to realize that it's better for the game if people just stop bashing what they perceive to be negative and accentuate the positive for the greater good of the game. The more people know about the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers, the more likely it is to see people come out and watch them when they are in their town.