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NHL notebook: Big-market teams drive ratings, ticket prices

| Friday, May 30, 2014, 8:06 p.m.

New York Rangers fans, starving for a Stanley Cup title since Mark Messier and Mike Richter led the team to victory 20 years ago, will drive Stanley Cup television ratings and ticket prices to record levels, industry executives said.

The Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday to advance to their first final since 1994.

They will face the winner of the Western Conference series between the Los Angeles Kings, the 2012 Stanley Cup winners, and the Chicago Blackhawks, who defeated Boston in last year's final.

The big-market finals matchup will be a boon for Comcast Corp.'s NBC, which in 2011 paid about $2 billion for the rights to broadcast NHL games through 2020-21, according to Brad Adgate, director of research at New York-based Horizon Media Inc.

“The fact that the Rangers are in the largest market, there's going to be a lot stronger appeal than other Eastern Conference teams,” Adgate said in a telephone interview. “Tampa Bay? Washington? I mean, Columbus? There's a really strong fan base in New York that has really come alive.”

Through the first 83 playoff games, the NHL has drawn an average of 1.12 million viewers, up 4.6 percent from last year, according to Horizon Media data.

The numbers still trail the NBA's playoff ratings, which are up 7 percent this year to an average of 4.5 million viewers per game from 4.2 million in 2013.

Jets center has surgery

Jets center Jim Slater underwent hip surgery and is expected back for training camp in September.

Injuries limited his playing time to 26 games in 2012-13 and 27 last season, when he was sidelined by a hernia.

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