With the Boston Bruins winning the 2011 Stanley Cup, we can all finally exhale after a momentous playoff run which captured the attention of sports fans and media all over New England. In looking back at all the coverage, here are the winners and losers from the Bruins Stanley Cup run:
No individual in town has done more to raise the profile of hockey in this town, and allow the die-hard Bruins fans to once again have a voice on the sports radio airwaves than Mike Felger. While he's been ultra-critical of the team at times, especially the trio of coach Claude Julien, defenseman Zdeno Chara and goaltender Tim Thomas, he can still poke fun at himself when he is proved wrong. His own show spent quite a bit of time replaying clips from him earlier in the season which just sound ridiculous now. I can't see, say, Glenn Ordway, doing the same thing.
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The entire station has "won" from this Bruins run, and the ratings numbers from May certainly bear that out. The radio home of the Boston Bruins has gone "all-in" on the team, and captured an audience eager to talk about the team. They've been loading up on hockey guests at all hours of the day, and it's paid off with their decisive victory in the ratings.
Comcast SportsNet was a beneficiary of the new Comcast/NBC merger, which made it possible to share talent and promotion on both a local and national level. Comcast SportsNet New England took things a step further though, airing over 75 total hours of Bruins coverage during the playoffs. Felger, along with Tony Amonte were solid on post-game shows, and having Joe Haggerty and Mike Giardi reporting from the venues gave value to the broadcasts. Kevin Walsh was also very good in the victorious Bruins lockerroom following the game seven win. CSNNE's time investment was rewarded with a 1.55 rating for the Game 7 postgame, remarkable considering the competition that was on the air at the time from Versus, NESN and the NHL Network, as well as all the local news stations.
The Boston NBC affiliate was the beneficiary of record ratings from the Bruins telecasts. Channel 7 carried five of the seven games of the series, (Games 3 and 4 aired on VERSUS) including the finale, which was only the most watched hockey game on record in Boston history. The game earned an overnight of a 43.4 rating and a 64 share - meaning 43.4% of all households were watching the game, and 64% of households which had their television turned on were watching the game. The series averaged a 28.1/44, which was 12 percent higher than ABC’s seven-game Boston average for last year’s NBA Finals (25.0/40 for Boston-LA Lakers).
Wait, what? Had the Bruins not been in the midst of the Stanley Cup finals, the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune sports editor's column declaring the NFL lockout "over" might have gotten much more attention and ridicule than it ended up with.
So the WEEI programming director saw that he was losing ground to 98.5 and decided to shake things up. You can't blame him for making moves, and actually have to give him credit for recognizing that changes needed to be made. However, the biggest change he made was taking the one guy on the entire station who could actually talk knowledgeably about the Bruins and sport of hockey and removing him from the day-to-day lineup. I feel pretty safe if saying that had WEEI kept Dale Arnold on the mid-day shift, the station would've won that ratings slot during this Bruins playoff run.
NESN was their usual solid selves with their Bruins coverage, but nothing really stood out to me. I like their personalities -- Andy Brickley, Barry Pederson, Gord Kluzak all gave good analysis, Naoko Funayama is a very good reporter, and who doesn't like Kathryn Tappen? But it all just seemed a little bland. Sure, they were enthusiastic about the games, but nothing just really stood out to me.
Media members covering this series made six cross-country flights in 15 days, and four in six days at the series shifted back and forth between Boston and Vancouver. The NHL still uses the 2-2-1-1-1 format the Stanley Cup Finals, and those making these trips paid the price. Adding to the inconvenience is the lack of direct flights between the cities, making multiple connections the rule and adding to the overall toll taken on the sleep habits of those involved.