The heated Devils-Rangers rivalry has made unlikely heroes and at least one unlikely villain in this hard-fought NHL playoffs series, but there's one foe neither team can conquer: the peacock.
As I wrote about a month ago, the Devils have really stepped up their revenue-generating and marketing techniques in recent years, including the introduction of watch parties at the arena during playoff games. The watch party tradition became a big part of the Pittsburgh Penguins' run to the Stanley Cup in 2009; rather than host the parties in the decrepit Mellon Arena the team played in, the parties were grand outdoor affairs, with plenty of big-screen TVs to keep fans loud.
Well, the Devils' and Rangers' parties are running into the same wall the Penguins eventually did during that championship year. NBC Sports put the brakes on plans for watch parties in games 5 and 6 of this series so it could get the maximum ratings, and since NBC Sports is broadcasting every game of this year's playoffs, it wants all the ratings it can get.
NBC, of course, hasn't broadcast anything worthwhile since "Friends" went off the air, and landing NHL coverage must have been a huge coup for the executives, considering those exclusive rights once belonged to an outfit called the Outdoor Life Network, where hockey competed with programming that was, well, outdoors. So you can see how a pivotal series like Devils-Rangers means a lot to the market, since the Western Conference series that just ended featured teams based in Los Angeles and Phoenix, hockey hotbeds that some call Canada South.
It's a shame. The Rock, in Newark, was making easy money off beer and parking sales, a huge help to its woebegone financials, and it gave fans a reason to not listen to Mike Milbury during intermissions, even though he is a stand up, class act, all-around wonderful person:
Even at cost to its ratings, couldn't NBC have done something to promote itself at such events, rather than pulling the plug on a good revenue opportunity for the teams? Although, as a hockey fan, I guess I should be happy the games are being broadcast at all. Now, if only they could make a few new seasons of "Seinfeld."
I'm even more irreverent on Twitter @joe_arney.