How NBC Has Managed To Alienate Both Penguins and Red Wings Fans

Mike FeldCorrespondent IJune 8, 2009

DETROIT - JUNE 06:  A general view before the Pittsburgh Penguins face the Detroit Red Wings during Game Five of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on June 6, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Detroit and Pittsburgh are not all that different from one another.

Both cities are blue collar and rely on hard working, family-first individuals. Both cities were built on one industry; Pittsburgh is the Steel City while Detroit is the Motor City.

When the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, they did it in Detroit. The team’s lead running back, Jerome Bettis, was born and raised in Motown.

Meeting for the second straight year, a bitter rivalry has been built between the cities. The Penguins and Red Wings have made residents of the cities forget how fond they were of each other.

As a resident of a Detroit suburb and a lifelong Wings fan, I like to think of Pittsburgh almost as a cousin. They’re not as close to be considered a sibling, but it’s still family. Although you don’t always agree, you still like each other and, in the end, will still be friends.

Despite the Stanley Cup Finals, both Detroit and Pittsburgh are united once again.  This time the cities can join in on quite the interesting battle: Arena Vision.

Anyone who has watched a playoff game should know what this is. While the team having success is on the road, a shot of that team’s fans packed into their home arena is shown. Those fans are often ecstatic; smacking thunder sticks, waving pom-poms and screaming as if they are at the game itself.

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It has become quite the image in this series. Shots outside of Mellon Arena display Pens fans carrying couches, blankets and lawn chairs in order to find the perfect view of one of the big screens placed on the side of the arena. Even as a Wings fan, I can respect this and commend Penguin fans for their enthusiasm.

With Game Six approaching, I looked forward to joining the fellow Wings fans at Joe Louis Arena. Every year, Joe Vision produces thousands of fans to watch road games. Tickets are normally an affordable $5, with all proceeds going to local charities. There are bands, giveaways, and perhaps the most important factor: fans that are as diehard as anyone.

On Monday, I learned that my plan had been foiled. There hasn’t been a Joe Vision yet this year, and there won’t be one. Although I have not been able to confirm this, it looks like there will be no Mellon Vision for Pens fans on Tuesday, either.

Why? NBC put the kibosh on it.

Yes, the lowest-rated network, the Now Broadcasting Crap channel, decided that its reputation wasn’t bad enough. So they decided that since viewers could be at home boosting ratings, they better damn sure not watch the game en masse at the Joe.

This should make fans sick to their stomachs. NBC screwed over a fan base compiled of fans that have lost their jobs, their pensions, their homes and their livelihoods. They’ve watched their towns, neighborhoods, favorite destinations and childhood landmarks crumble and vanish. Hockey is one of the few things Red Wing fans have to hold onto.

But NBC’s ignorance and greed has blinded the network. Are a few thousand fans packing an arena really going to kill your ratings? Isn’t it safe to assume those fans will gather at a friend’s house or crowd a local bar instead?

Most might. But some will not, because of one problem: kids. Yes, Joe Vision is fan-friendly. Unlike a bar, parents can bring their children into the arena and let them share in one of the rare moments, like watching a favorite team compete for a title.

In a brutal economy, both cities were given a chance to be a part of their team’s Stanley Cup run. Most fans can’t afford tickets to a game, or don’t have access to purchasing any. But camping outside Mellon Arena or watching the game on the big screen at Joe Louis Arena gave fans of these two areas a way to connect with the teams.

NBC has robbed fans of that.


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