The latest from the world of televised sports ...
Team of the day
The Lightning has a new owner, a new general manager and new coach and, apparently, a new and improved following. Not only here, but across the globe.
Let's start with the big picture. In terms of traffic to NHL.com, the Tampa Bay market ranks No. 1 in the league with a 111 percent increase over the past year and is approaching the top 10 among all U.S. markets.
Locally, Wednesday's Game 7 against the Penguins drew huge numbers (at least for hockey) on Sun Sports. The Lightning's thrilling 1-0 victory delivered a 4.5 local rating, making it the highest-rated Lightning playoff game on Sun Sports in eight years. That means nearly 81,000 households were tuned in. It was a 25 percent increase over the first round of the 2007 playoffs, the last time the Lightning made the postseason. The 4.5 rating is about three to four times the rating Sun Sports received for the first four games of the Lightning-Penguins series.
Charity of the day
ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale told Two Cents on Thursday that his 2011 Dick Vitale Gala for cancer research on May 20 in Sarasota is sold out. However, those who want to get on a waiting list, or wish to make a donation, can go to DickVitaleOnline.com or call toll-free 1-800-454-6698 . Vitale's goal, as it is every year, is to raise $1 million. This year's event includes all of the 2011 Final Four coaches (UConn's Jim Calhoun, Butler's Brad Stevens, Kentucky's John Calipari and Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart), as well as sports personalities such as Jon Gruden, Erin Andrews, Billy Donovan, Jimbo Fisher and others. This year's gala will honor Calipari and North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams, and be hosted by ESPN's John Saunders.
Website of the day
Popular ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons revealed some of the details of his new website, which will launch in June. It will be called Grantland.com with the name honoring legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice. The site will combine sports and pop culture and feature stories in a variety of ways, from long features to columns to blog posts to podcasts.
Simmons will write while serving as the website's editor-in-chief. Dan Fierman, a former senior editor at GQ, will be lead editor. Consulting editors include best-selling author and noted magazine writer Chuck Klosterman, book author and New Yorker feature writer Malcolm Gladwell and Dave Eggers, the Pulitzer Prize finalist and founder of McSweeney's, the independent publishing house.
"We wanted original voices, and we found a bunch of them already,'' Simmons said. "We're going to take chances, come up with a few premises and ideas that you haven't seen before, and be consistently entertaining day after day. You will never know what to expect when you come to the site -- in a good way. That's our ultimate goal.''
* Michele Tafoya best known for being a sideline reporter on Monday Night Football, is leaving ESPN. It's believed she is headed to NBC, perhaps to work on Sunday Night Football.
* E:60, ESPN's news magazine show, will do a feature next week on former Rays slugger Jonny Gomes and how he nearly died from a heart attack in 2002. Reporter Chris Connelly examines Gomes' roller-coaster life in a feature that will run on Tuesday's show at 7 p.m.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Everyone around here knows how good the Lightning's Marty St. Louis is, but it was nice to see that the hockey media in the rest of the United States and Canada knows it, too, by voting St. Louis as one of the finalists for league MVP.
2. Juggling national TV and building availability, it isn't easy for the NHL to make the playoff schedule, but there is absolutely no way the Lightning and Capitals should be forced to play on back-to-back nights in Games 3 and 4, or to play three games in four nights. (The St. Pete Times Forum is unavailable Thursday because of USF's graduation ceremony.) We are down to the league's quarterfinal round and it's ridiculous to ask two teams to play with playoff intensity two nights in a row and three times in four days.
3. Did you see where a Yankees employee accidently sent out to several hundred season-ticket holders the personal information of 17,000 partial and full season-ticket holders? The leaked information includes names, e-mail and home addresses. That would be no big deal for most teams, but with the Yankees, you would have to think there are at least a few A-list celebrities on the list.
Posted by Tom Jones at 12:36:49 am on April 29, 2011