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Thursday, June 20, 2024

A Rare NBA Break Creates Prime-Time Opportunity for the NHL 

  • The league has three days, and perhaps as many as five, without conference finals competition from the NBA.
  • The WNBA still has an active upcoming schedule, despite a now deleted X post from Nike.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL this weekend, and perhaps early next week, will have a rare stretch of the calendar without any competition for viewers from the NBA playoffs—a development likely to enhance what has already been a banner spring for hockey. 

The NBA, which has shared the prime-time playoff spotlight with the NHL for six weeks, is now beginning a six-day layoff following the rapid conclusion of its two conference finals series. The Celtics swept the Pacers while the Mavericks toppled the Timberwolves in five games, with the NBA Finals between Dallas and Boston not scheduled to begin until June 6. 

That creates a unique opening for the NHL to capture even more of a spotlight for itself during the remainder of its conference finals. Game 5 of the Oilers-Stars series will happen Friday night, followed by Game 6 of Rangers-Panthers on Saturday, and a return to the Edmonton-Dallas matchup Sunday. The seventh games of the two series, should they be needed, would happen Monday and Tuesday. By comparison, last year’s NHL conference finals featured just one day not shared with the NBA. 

Surging Viewership

Even before this upcoming stretch, the NHL has been riding a high on the ratings front. Across North America, the first round was the second-most-viewed in league history. In the U.S., the first two rounds of the playoffs combined to average 1.16 million viewers per game across Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery networks, up 9% from a year ago and the NHL’s best figure ever through the conference semifinals. 

Viewership has been further boosted by the continued presence of the Oilers’ Connor McDavid (above), by many accounts the league’s best player, and a resurgent Rangers team enjoying one of its most successful seasons.

But if the Stars prevail over the Oilers, they will join the Mavericks in championship-round appearances to extend a furious run of activity at the American Airlines Center, which the two Dallas teams share.

Not Really Without Basketball 

Despite the extended NBA postseason break until late next week, the sports world is not without pro basketball. The WNBA has 16 games scheduled between Friday and the start of the NBA Finals. But after the Mavericks’ series-clinching win over the Timberwolves on Thursday night, the X account for Nike’s basketball division posted: “And that’s that… a week without hoops smh,” accompanied by the exasperated upside-down smiley face emoji.

Not surprisingly, the now deleted tweet generated immediate outcry, particularly given Nike is an investor in the WNBA.

“A league investor tweeting that there’s a week without hoops when there is a full slate of WNBA games is wild,” posted women’s basketball media personality Khristina Williams.

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