Occasionally, there were two days between Stanley Cup playoff games in the early rounds. The Flyers opened their series with Buffalo by playing Thursday and Friday night games because the Sixers were in a national NBC game Saturday night at the First Union Center. Had the Flyers played Saturday afternoon and the game extended into overtime, the Center's work crews might not have had time to change from ice to hardwood.
There are several reasons for the scheduling quirks, including building availability. But the bottom line is, the TV networks want the most attractive games for the highest possible ratings.
Networks pay huge rights fees for the games. In turn, they want the best programming available.
Frank Brown, the NHL's vice president of media relations, points out that when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, the NBA is winding down its regular season. An NBA regular-season game rarely can be moved.
When the Stanley Cup playoffs are trimmed to the final four, scheduling is relatively easy. The NHL wisely likes to alternate games in the East and West finals.
Starting tomorrow, with Game 1 of the Dallas-Colorado Western Conference final, there is only one night when a game isn't scheduled - Wednesday, May 17. A Tina Turner concert at the Pepsi Center in Denver is scheduled for that night.
The Flyers and New Jersey launch their turnpike-connected Eastern Conference final on Sunday at the big bank building (3 p.m.)
"The four teams that are left are about as good as possible for us," Dan Margulis, director of programming for ABC Sports, said yesterday. "Other than having [the] New York [Rangers] and Philadelphia, having New Jersey-Philadelphia seems like the next best thing."
Despite several appealing series, national ratings for Stanley Cup games are still blips on the radar screen. Game 5 of the Flyers-Pittsburgh series last Sunday produced only a 1.3 rating (that's 1.3 million households).
Margulis stressed that the noon start for the game wasn't an ideal time to produce a respectable rating. The Flyers-Penguins game was against a New York Knicks-Miami NBA game on NBC.
Regionally, however, the Flyers ratings are firing up expensive cigars for Comcast SportsNet people. The Game 6 clincher in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night set a regional ratings record of 9.7 (one local rating point equals about 26,000 households).
The game is the top-rated program for CSN since it went on the air in October 1997. The previous CSN ratings mark was a 9.5 for Game 3 of the Sixers-Indiana series last season.
BOYLE BOUND FOR ESPN
Pat Boyle, on board at Comcast SportsNet since its launch, is joining ESPN as an anchor for ESPNEWS.
Boyle, 31, will finish up at CSN when the Flyers' season ends.
"I hope my last assignment is a parade," Boyle said yesterday. "It would have to be a great opportunity for me to leave Comcast SportsNet because I love it there. The variety at Comcast is so intriguing."
Said Jack Williams, CSN president and chief executive officer: "We hate to see him go, but we're happy for him. In his time with us, he has really grown and improved."
Although Boyle is from Detroit, he's always felt at home in Philadelphia. His father, Michael, was born and raised in South Philadelphia. Now Dr. Boyle, he attended St. Joseph's Prep and St. Joe's University.
Boyle is the first to depart from CSN's initial group of on-air talent. Leslie Gudel is cutting back her Comcast schedule to report for ABC on college football and the Indianapolis 500.
VERMEIL: NO TV
Don't look for Dick Vermeil in sports television next season.
Vermeil, who retired after coaching the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl championship, said yesterday, "I'm not going to go back into television."
The former Eagles' coach had spoken with ABC Sports executives about returning to the network as a college football analyst. Vermeil had been a top college analyst for ABC before he took the St. Louis job in 1997.
"I decided, if I go back, it would be the NFL," Vermeil said.
With ex-NFL quarterbacks Bob Griese, Dan Fouts and Gary Danielson, ABC has a strong lineup of college analysts.
NEILSON ON HBO
Flyers coach-in-the-press box Roger Neilson is featured on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" at 10 p.m. Monday.
The "Real Sports" crew follows Neilson through his treatment for bone-marrow cancer. Flyers fans should enjoy seeing photos of Neilson as a junior hockey coach and brief video of him in previous NHL coaching stops. In one junior hockey team photo, Neilson is seated next to a player named Craig Ramsay.
Neilson tells interviewer Mary Carillo that he is worried whether he will be back next season as the Flyers' head coach. Ramsay, the interim coach, has guided the Eric Lindrosless Flyers to the Eastern Conference finals.
OWLS AWARD WINNER
Temple's nationally ranked men's team received the Jim Barniak Award at Monday's annual Herb Good Basketball Club awards dinner.
The Owls won the Barniak Award as the Big 5 Team of the Year.
Barniak, a former Philadelphia sports writer, was the sports director of PRISM when he died in 1991. PRISM was the predecessor of Comcast SportsNet, which continues to present the Barniak Award.
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