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Lightning Game 7 public viewing party canceled amid declining NHL playoff TV ratings

Low ratings might be at the heart of Tampa Bay's decision to cancel the party before the biggest game of their season.

Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Public viewing parties are one of the best ways to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs. Should you not be able to snag a ticket to a game, it's very likely your team of choice is holding a watch party that you can attend, often outside of the team's arena.

Yet, on the eve of the biggest game of the year, a Game 7 against the Penguins, the Lightning canceled their watch party scheduled to be held outside of Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay for the road game.

The news broke to some fervor that the NHL and NBCSN are behind the cancellation due to a chance to boost television ratings. It's no secret that the NHL's ratings have struggled this postseason, and it's uncertain whether that might be because of the lack of Canadian teams or the absence of their biggest markets such as Chicago from the Conference Finals.

Though Facebook is no confirmation either way that the NHL pulled the plug on watch parties to salvage ratings, this isn't the first time this year one was canceled. The Penguins called off their public viewing parties in front of Consol Energy Center for the first round against the Rangers due "to the construction site across from [the arena] and concerns about NHL broadcast rights."

Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto told Post-Gazette affiliate KDKA-TV much of the same when the party were called off back in April, yet the Penguins have had public viewing parties since the original order was issued.

"It seems that there’s a little bit more pressure coming this year from both the NHL and the network to avoid having large-scale public broadcasts."

Update 5/26: The NHL responded to the cancellation, stating that the league's policy forbids teams from having multiple watch parties per round.

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