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Tampa Bay is a better television market than you realize

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While folks in larger hockey markets will continue to bemoan the fact that Tampa Bay is in the Stanley Cup Final, actually looking at the facts reveals Tampa Bay is a better TV market than many realize.

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Expect to see a lot of this over the next few days as the Tampa Bay Lightning prepare to appear in their first Stanley Cup Final since 2004, against the Chicago Blackhawks.

This sentiment is all too common right now. "New York-Chicago would have been better for the league" blah blah blah. Yes, New York is a bigger market. They would have drawn more television ratings in the final than Tampa Bay, which means more money for the league. But the gap is certainly not so wide as to justify calling the Lightning advancing a "nightmare".

That might be Dave Dameshek's opinion. The facts don't agree:

And, in the Tampa market specifically:

That's better than the 10.3 rating in New York for the same game. Yes, New York is a larger market overall, so a 10.3 there means more viewers overall than what came from Tampa Bay. But again, the gap isn't nearly as wide as some folks contend.

So yeah, we're talking about 1.8 million TV homes instead of 7.4 million. But Tampa Bay, as a television market, is almost exactly the same size as Detroit. And everyone in Tampa Bay is tuning into Lightning games, the same way they do in "Original Six" markets. So would we be hearing of how the Stanley Cup Final is a "nightmare ratings scenario" if it were Chicago-Detroit or Anaheim-Detroit?

"But Detroit has a larger following outside their own market" you say. That's true. One has to wonder just how much more popular the Lightning might be outside of their own region, and, how good for national ratings they'd be, if the NHL had spent any amount of time or resources over the past few seasons to market Steven Stamkos the way they do Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin or other stars in the league. Still, drawing a 2.63 overnight nationally for Game 7 vs. the Rangers is nothing to sneeze at. Tampa Bay hockey is fun to watch and hockey fans everywhere have started to notice.

The reality is, some people just want to dump on southern markets without regard for facts. Sure, there have been enormous failures of the NHL product in the Sun Belt. Tampa Bay has had their fair share of poor attendance over the years. Some of these problems are ongoing and there are obvious concerns looking ahead with a team heading to Las Vegas. But stop lumping Tampa Bay -- who finished 9th in average attendance this season, ahead of two "Original Six" franchises -- in with the failures. The Lightning might be a bigger success story off the ice than they are on it.