The New York Rangers’ first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Washington Capitals begins Wednesday night at 7:30 PM in D.C. There’s also a not as significant basketball game that features the New York Knicks against the Boston Celtics, in the Knicks’ regular season finale. The MSG Network, home to both clubs, has opted to feature the Knicks’ regular season finale on the primary network (MSG) and push the Rangers’ playoff game to the not-nearly-as-widely-available MSG-Plus. This is a serious problem, and an extremely idiotic decision on the part of the MSG Network.

Ryan McDonagh is not happy with MSG Network, and takes his anger out on David Clarkson.



First, let’s discuss the place and position of both sports in the world of media. I fully understand that an NBA regular season game will receive higher television ratings and viewership than a regular season NHL game. That is a fact. I also understand that, because of higher viewership, a typical NBA regular season game will pull in more revenue from advertisers than a typical NHL regular season game. If the Knicks are playing at 7:00 on a Tuesday at home, and the Rangers are on the road at the same start time, more likely than not the Knicks will be on the primary MSG Network. With baseball starting and basketball just finishing up, there are going to be a lot of crossovers and over-laps of games on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. It’s a give-and-take system; sometimes the NHL will trump other sports, and sometimes not.

However, we’re not comparing two regular season games, and that’s where the problem lies. We’re comparing a playoff game featuring New York’s first playoff hockey game in two seasons to a regular season game featuring two teams that already know their first-round playoff matchup! Both the Knicks and Celtics have clinched their own playoff spots already, so nothing is at stake here. And yet MSG has decided that this 82nd basketball game of the regular season gets to air on the network that has the furthest reach, while Game 1 of a playoff series moves to MSG-Plus. While it is available in most New York-area homes, it does not reach nearly as many homes as the primary MSG Network.

The Knicks are having a significant impact on the entire city of New York, which is caused by their revival into a playoff team this season. There’s a newfound love affair with Knickerbocker basketball, and sad to say the regular season Knicks’ game would probably have received better ratings than the Rangers’ playoff game. Even in the Isiah Thomas era, their darkest days, the Knicks would outdraw the Rangers.

But in recent years, as evidenced further by last year’s numbers especially, this trend is close to being pushed aside. In each team’s respective 2009-10 regular seasons, Knicks games had an average rating of 1.03 on MSG and were viewed in approximately 77,000 households per game broadcast on MSG Network. Meanwhile, the Rangers had an average rating of 0.96 on MSG and were viewed in approximately 72,000 households per game. Keep in mind that neither made the playoffs last year.

This fact that the Knicks still outdraw the Rangers, by however much, in the regular season does not make MSG’s decision right. A playoff game in any sport trumps a regular season game in another sport. Period. The Red Sox (of all teams, the anointed 2011 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox) will be forced to an alternate channel by the Boston Bruins and their first-round playoff matchup against the Canadiens. It’s only fair and it’s the right thing to do, because it’s the playoffs.

I get that some Knicks’ playoff games against the Celtics will likely force Rangers’ playoff games to MSG-Plus at other times throughout each of their respective playoff series. And that’s fine.

The fact that MSG has decided to air a completely meaningless regular season basketball game over a playoff hockey game – and Game 1 of a series where the Rangers do have a chance – is a downright stupid decision.

The fact that this is an issue at all is a flat-out joke.