Opinion: The real bear market for the NHL is being created by some of the poorest officiating ever seen in a major North American professional sports league, especially during the playoffs.
Bulls of the Week
The Toronto Raptors are in tough against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference and the NBA club with the best 2018-19 regular-season record at 60-22.
Yet the Raptors are exactly where they should be on a second seeding earned by a 58-24 regular season and the second best overall record in the league this year.
They’re also basking in the afterglow of a record-setting buzzer-beater by superstar Kawhi Leonard in the deciding Game 7 of their second-round series against the young and up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers last Sunday.
Leonard’s dramatic quadruple-bounce rim shot winner generated a peak audience of more than 3.8 million viewers at the buzzer, sandwiched between an average national audience of 2.2 million and an aggregate of 5.8 million Canadians who watched some or all of the game.
Whatever metrics you use, it was the most-watched NBA game in Canadian TV history and made for one of the most bullish weeks in the 24-year playing history of the Raptors franchise.
The TV clip and so-called Phantom Cam video of the Leonard series-winner are two of the three most-watched Twitter videos in the NBA post-season, creating more than 16 million video views across all NBA social media platforms.
The Raptors’ spike helped make the 2019 NBA conference semifinals the highest-rated second round on ESPN and ABC since 2012. In Canada on TSN and Sportsnet, viewership is up 73 per cent year-over-year in the playoffs. Moreover, all of this is happening after the most-watched NBA regular season in Canadian TV history.
The sobering news is the Raptors need to at least reach the NBA Final to leverage this bull market of fan base-building and make the most of the one-year gamble on the trade that sent DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio in exchange for Leonard and Danny Green.
Making the transition from strong local and regional brand to national brand is a huge leap. It took the Toronto Blue Jays back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993 to make the jump, less than a year before the Raptors’ original dinosaur name and logo was born May 15, 1994.
Bears of the Week
It has been an awful week for the NHL. For one, it is still reeling from the dubious testimony of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at parliamentary hearings into concussions in Ottawa the week before.
Second, although the Boston Bruins — the Original Six team with the much higher upside in terms of national TV ratings in both Canada and the U.S. — qualified for the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, they did so in audience-killing fashion, sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final in the minimum four games.
That sweep left plenty of gravy in the pan for the NHL, which is happiest when such series go to six or ideally seven games.
Yet the real bear market for the NHL is being created by some of the poorest officiating ever seen in a major North American professional sports league, especially during the playoffs — the season that carries the highest stakes and the greatest opportunity to not only retain core fans but attract new ones.
The Sport Market on TSN Radio rates and debates the bulls and bears of sport business. Join Tom Mayenknecht Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for a behind-the-scenes look at the sport business stories that matter most to fans.
Follow Tom Mayenknecht at: Twitter.com/TheSportMarket
CLICK HERE to report a typo.
Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email [email protected]