By Alan Pergament
The New York Times story I said was coming about hockey ratings in Buffalo by award-winning, TV Sports columnist Richard Sandomir is currently online.
I read the piece online late Sunday night, two days after I wrote in Friday's blog that it was coming. Sandomir did a lot of work for the short story, interviewing four people including yours truly.
I've written often about how strong the ratings for hockey are here, the latest blog being Sunday's report on Buffalo having the highest rating in the country for Los Angeles' 5-4 double overtime win over the New York Rangers Saturday night outside of the markets of the participating teams.
But Sandomir's email questions about it made me reflect more than I have in years about why hockey means so much to the area. He asked if the cold weather here, the proximity to Canada and youth hockey were factors.
I probably gave Sandomir a lot more than he wanted or needed considering all the work he had done on the story. He only quoted one line of mine in the three emails that I sent him in response to his questions. But he did me a favor by causing me to reflect about hockey's popularity here. So here is an edited version of the emails that I sent him.
I'm a native of Long Island but I've been here for 44 years so I know this has always been a huge hockey market.
Buffalo's proximity to Canada certainly helps. You just go over the Peace Bridge and you are in Ft. Erie, Canada. We''re also about 90 minutes to two hours from Toronto (if the Peace Bridge isn't clogged).
We also get Canadian television stations here, which means many people have been watching pro hockey even before the Buffalo Sabres started playing in the National Hockey League in 1970.
Actually, viewership here is even higher than NBC reports because many people here watch CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and it isn't given a Nielsen rating here. The CBC coverage isn't in high definition on cable (it is on over-the-air TV), but many Western New Yorkers prefer CBC's announcers to NBC's.
This also is a huge area for youth hockey of all ages and for both genders. Many people say Buffalo is a Midwestern city (like Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis) located in the East.
Of course, you know about South Buffalo''s Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. But there are several other NHL players from the area, including Pat Kaleta of the Sabres, Lee Stempniak of the Penguins, Brooks Orpik of the Penguins, Tim Kennedy of the Coyotes. (Better check if they are still with all those teams).
I'm not sure about the weather being much of a factor. As I said, I grew up on Long Island and I know it is cold there, too, in the winter. It is cold in a lot of Midwestern cities that don't get great ratings. The ratings are great here now -- No. 2 for game 1 behind only New York -- and it is going to be in the 70s all week.
You should also know that Buffalo obviously hasn't had the NBA since the late 1970s and college basketball isn't strong here, either. Essentially, our pro sports interest is in the NHL and the NFL. The Bills games also get huge ratings even without a playoff team for I believe 14 years (you better check).
The sports station in town, WGR, has a year-round morning hockey show focused on the Sabres and the NHL and a year-round evening pro football show focused on the Bills and the NFL.
And though I love the area and it has a great cultural life for a city its size, Buffalo obviously doesn't have as many entertainment options as New York, Los Angeles and other big markets.
One more thing. The NBC affiliate here is a strong one and that helps. I hope this helps.
I should add one other thing. Hockey fans here follow ex-Sabres playing around the league. I'm not sure how many of the Rangers or Kings played here. I don't think many.
I know Dominic Moore had a cup of coffee here.
Kane obviously was a big draw for the Chicago-L.A. series and Ryan Miller for the St. Louis-Chicago series.
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