Whether Charles Barkley's NHL marketing blitz will help convert basketball diehards to hockey fans remains to be seen, but thus far the Predators-Penguins series has put up significantly higher ratings than the year-ago Stanley Cup Final.
"He said, 'You've got to come to Nashville for a game, it's the craziest thing I've ever seen, '" Barkley said.
"We probably should pay more attention to the regular season, but there is nothing more nerve-wracking than Stanley Cup overtime hockey", Barkley said.
The Predators - featuring an unmatched home-ice atmosphere - won the game, 4-1, to even the series.
"Wayne", Barkley said, "who is your favorite black athlete of all time?"
Gretzky immediately answered, "Grant Fuhr", his former Oilers teammate.
The former NBA star said he's been following hockey since watching the World Hockey Association's Birmingham Bulls in Alabama. Philadelphia 76ers, Barkley was further drawn into the sport by the local National Hockey League team, befriending former Philadelphia Flyers great and current general manager Ron Hextall. I got to know him and Eric Lindros going to a bunch of Flyers games.
Barkley says Mike Wilbon has been taking him to the Stanley Cup Final with Chicago the past few years.
"Hey, with all the nice things you've been saying about hockey, come to a game", Barkley recalls the conversation going.
"I'm really looking forward to tonight", Barkley said.
With everything said and done, Barkley is not bad for the game of hockey. "I'm not breaking earth-shattering news". This is huge because this time of year, especially in the earlier rounds of their respective playoffs, the National Hockey League and NBA were competing for viewers. "The best thing about my job is when I'm in work for two straight months like the NHL playoffs, I'm in a room with 20 televisions and I watched pretty much every single hockey game".
"I think we showed a stat we've only had four basketball games in the playoffs that were less than double digits", Barkley said. He is great for the game of hockey, and hopefully he continues to be involved in some way after this year's postseason.