Sources: Flyers are favorites to take on Bruins at Fenway
|06.22.09 at 9:11 pm ET|
Sources confirmed months ago the Bruins have been awarded next year’s NHL Winter Classic and will play at Fenway Park on Jan. 1, and multiple reports had previously indicated that the Washington Capitals would be the Black and Gold’s opponent in hockey’s showpiece event.
The Boston Metro has reported that Boston College is already confirmed to play in an outdoor college hockey game that’s been added to the festivities. Boston University is also in talks to play in the outdoor college hockey game paired with the Winter Classic, according to the Metro report. NHL sources have also confirmed a second portion of the report to WEEI.com that the Philadelphia Flyers have taken the lead as the opponent for the Bruins on Jan. 1, 2010.
Several reports had named Washington as the leader in the clubhouse to take on the B’s on New Year’s Day, but multiple sources revealed to WEEI.com that there are concerns from NBC over television ratings with the Capitals – who are being pushed by the NHL to be the choice. NBC is instead campaigning for Philadelphia, according to one source, and the odds are improving by the day that the Flyers will be traveling to the Fens in January.
The lackluster playoff ratings for NBC during an opening round Stanley Cup playoffs matchup between Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals vs. the New York Rangers – the hockey team from the nation’s #1 TV market – is believed to at least be partly behind the network’s motives.
Last season’s first round’s Game 6 between the Rangers and Capitals drew a paltry 0.7 rating, off 30% from a 1.0 for Red Wings/Predators Game 6 during the 2008 playoffs. An expected marquee matchup pitting Ovechkin against the Rangers averaged a mere 0.7 for two games on NBC, which was down 22% from a 0.9 for two comparable Red Wings/Predators matchups in ’08.
Surprisingly the 1.4 rating for NBC’s Game 1 between the Capitals/Penguins was 18% below the 1.7 that Penguins/Flyers Game 3 drew on the network just two weeks prior in the first round of the 2008-09 postseason. That may be the exact kind of number that NBC is looking at in pulling the strings for the Broad Street Bullies.
Locally in Washington, playoff TV ratings for Capitals games were labeled a disappointment as they were down from the 2007-08 postseason — a surprising development given the dream matchup between Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in the second round of the playoffs. (Haggs’ Note: I had a Washington Caps’ official check in with me and assure me that the Caps’ local ratings were way up during the playoffs last year, and that didn’t have any bearing on NBC’s decision.)
In a conference call with Washington reporters Capitals GM George McPhee stated that he hadn’t heard anything from the NHL about the Winter Classic, and expressed doubt that the Caps would be a part of the game at Fenway Park.
“I have not,” McPhee said when asked if he had heard anything from the NHL regarding the Winter Classic. “You think we would know by this point.
“It doesn’t sound like we will be part of it. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. When you go, you have to play in front of 40,000 or 50,000 of the other team’s fans. …I would just assume if we were in it that we would know by now.”
The Bruins and NHL officials are expected to make the Winter Classic announcement official next month in a press conference at Fenway Park. Expect the Flyers to be the hockey team that suits up against the Bruins inside the Lyric Little Bandbox on Yawkey Way unless NBC has a change of heart concerning their top choice.