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Yet the biggest winner this week is the notion of sport as storytelling. More than anything, it is compelling stories and meaningful moments that drive television ratings and fan engagement. And in that department, even in these dog days of summer, it was a week of storytelling for the ages.
Bears of the Week
In the NHL, it is a week that produced three Game 7s in the conference semifinals set for this weekend: The Vancouver Canucks against the Vegas Golden Knights, Dallas Stars against the Colorado Avalanche and New York Islanders against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The winners of those deciding games will be joined by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the final four in the Edmonton bubble at Rogers Place.
The Game 7s are something to celebrate for the NHL, especially when it looked last weekend as if all series would be done by Tuesday. The resulting TV ratings over the next 48 hours will prove yet again the power of Game 7s.
Games 1 through 4 are typically owned by the hard core fans. Games 5 and 6 begin to expand beyond that base. By the time Game 7 happens, audiences have typically doubled on the strength of casual fans jumping on the bandwagon.
Yet to me, the NHL — typically criticized for too many off days between series in the Stanley Cup playoffs — has gone the other way and fast-tracked the scheduling in questionable fashion.
Game 7s are to be celebrated in the spotlight, not cannibalized the way they might be this weekend. No Stanley Cup series should have two sets of back-to-back games such as Vancouver versus Las Vegas. No team should have to spend a day off travelling from Toronto to Edmonton on Sunday to play the conference final beginning Monday, like the winner of Philly and the Islanders.