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Minnesota sports, as seen elsewhere

Dare to dream: Could Wild and Wolves some day be the next Sharks and Warriors?

The Bay Area in Northern California will host the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals this weekend.

Golden State advanced to the NBA Finals for a second straight year with Monday night’s victory over Oklahoma City. The neighboring NHL franchise in San Jose punched its ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals, last Wednesday.

The shared spotlight marks just the ninth time in professional sports history that an NBA and NHL team from the same market will play in their respective championships at the same time.  

The Warriors host Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Two days later and 37 miles south on I-880, the Sharks bring the Stanley Cup Finals to the SAP Center in San Jose.

Five years ago, Golden State won just 23 games and had made the playoffs only once in 18 seasons. The Sharks were regular postseason contenders, but had never made it past the conference finals and missed the playoffs last season for the first time in 11 years.

These storylines might dare Minnesotans to dream that a Twin Cities NBA and NHL championship crossover might not be far off.

The Timberwolves and Wild both changed coaches this offseason and aggressively pursued the best available talent.

New Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden have a strong core of young talent to build on with back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. The Wolves have missed the postseason 12 straight years.

New Wild coach Bruce Boudreau will attempt to find support for his veteran stars and help propel the club deep into the postseason. The Wild were ousted in the first round of the playoffs this season and the second round in the previous two seasons.

The pieces for each franchise are coming together for a possible big Twin Cities summer sports party, but the Wild are likely a lot closer than the Wolves.

Courtesy of the San Jose Mercury, here’s a breakdown of the eight previous times the NHL/NBA finals were played in the same market:

None of those eight previous instances resulted in both of the local teams winning.

2003: The New Jersey Devils won the Cup, but the Nets lost in the NBA Finals.
1994: The New York Rangers won the Cup, but the Knicks lost.
1993: The Chicago Bulls won the NBA Finals, but the Blackhawks lost.
1980: The 76ers and the Flyers lost. (Oh, Philly.)
1974: The Boston Celtics won, but the Bruins lost.
1972: The New York Knicks and Rangers lost.
1958: The Celtics won, but the Bruins lost.
1957: The Celtics won, but the Bruins lost.

The Twins got a taste of the excitement stirring through the Bay Area. After Monday’s loss against the Oakland A’s, some of the players attended the Warriors’ Game 7 victory over Oklahoma City. Twins communications and player relations director Dustin Morse tweeted this photo:

NBC would prefer NHL fans to watch postseason games at home

Tampa Bay Lighting fans were forced to watch Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals somewhere other than “Thunder Alley” on a big screen outside of Amalie Arena in Tampa.

Earlier this week, the Lightning announced it would not be holding a watch party despite the excitement surrounding Game 7. They encouraged fans to gather at the bars and restaurants nearby where the game would be shown.

The Lightning lost to Pittsburgh 2-1.

The news caught fans and local businesses by surprise, Yahoo Sports wrote, but it should be no surprise that NBC was behind the decision. Since NBC acquired the NHL’s broadcast rights in 2006, there has been an issue with large viewing parties nearly each postseason. The network wants, and likely needs, the TV ratings from the thousands of fans that would be watching at the viewing party instead of at home on their own TVs.

Yahoo explains the issue:

The first big blowup was in Pittsburgh during their 2009 Stanley Cup run, when large viewing parties outside of the Igloo were sometimes cancelled because "NBC Sports does not allow teams to show their broadcasts on arena screens." 

In its report on the Lightning viewing party cancellation, Deadspin wrote “the Lightning were only allowed to host one official event per series, and that they’d already used up their slot on the Game 5 party,” and that there were threats of fines from NHL if they didn’t comply.

Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reported that the NHL said it reminded teams that they are allowed one watch party per round and NBC declined to comment on the issue.

Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski wrote “The sad reality is that the margin of success for NHL ratings is so slim that NBC needs both markets in Game 7 to tune in en masse. Those few Nielsen families at a watch party, instead of at home, make a difference. Those people watching a giant screen instead of streaming the game on a mobile device make a huge difference”.

The Wild hosted a viewing party at Xcel Energy Center for Game 2 of the first-round playoff series against Dallas. They also hosted a Game 1 lunch-time pep rally, but in accordance with NHL policies only had one viewing party.

The Wild have regularly hosted viewing parities since investing in a new massive video board two years ago, averaging about one during the regular season and two in the playoffs, the team’s media relations staff said.

“Wild viewing parties are conducted in accordance with all NHL guidelines. Our fans have told us they enjoy being able to gather together for viewing parties,” said Carly Peters, Wild media relations coordinator. “The parties give families, and other fans who might not get the opportunity to attend many games, a chance to experience the atmosphere in our arena. We look forward to continuing watch parties for our fans in the future.”