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.”

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