I am going to throw out a few numbers from this past weekend to you...
They are 4, 24 and 1.4.
The number 4 relates to Game #4 of the National Hockey League Stanley Cup. The NHL Playoffs have been going on since April and they are now down to the final two teams, the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins (Detroit is now up 3-1 in the best of seven series).
The number 24 refers to the number of years that WITN has carried the local telecast of the Children's Miracle Network Telethon, beginning on Saturday night and then continuing all day on Sunday. The telethon has always been scheduled on the first Saturday and Sunday following Memorial Day.
Finally the number 1.4 is actually a little bigger because I am referring to the $1.4-million that was raised for the local Children's Hospital at University Health Systems of eastern North Carolina during the weekend telethon. This is local money that stays right here in eastern North Carolina for the benefit of the people of eastern North Carolina.
Our NHL schedule has fluctuated recently because both Detroit and Pittsburgh have dominated their series. Many days we have been unsure if one of these teams would sweep their series and the subsequent games would be canceled at the last minute. The game on Saturday night was originally scheduled to be the 3rd game of the series, but at times it looked like it could be a Game #6 or Game #7 if the series started earlier.
We have a long term commitment to air the Children's Miracle Network Telethon at the same time that NBC and the NHL scheduled Game #4 of the Stanley Cup. We honored our commitment to carry the telethon beginning at 9:00pm that evening. Since it would be to no ones benefit that carry the game from 8:00pm - 9:00pm and then switch away to the telethon we elected to air Wheel of Fortune at 8:00pm and Lawyers on Call at 8:30pm. That was our decision, so please do not blame Pat Sajak and Vanna White or the Whitley Law Firm for this programming decision.
I find it interesting that a good number of people complained, via telephone or e-mail, about the fact that the Stanley Cup was not on WITN-TV. I guess it indicates the number of people that have re-located to eastern North Carolina from places like Michigan and Western Pennsylvania. Only one of the telephone complaints that we received had a "southern twang" to the voice. Trust me, I have nothing against Hockey. I grew up watching hockey as a young boy along with my borther. We would go to see the Clinton Comets take on teams like the Johnstown Jets. Yes, those are the same teams that you might remember seeing in Paul Newman's film "Slapshot".
In past year's carriage of the Children's Miracle Network Telethon has led us to preempt NBA Finals, Tennis and Golf. One of those NBA Final games involved Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. We were able to get another local station to carry some telecasts from NBC, so interested viewers would not miss the game. Times change, and those days are behind us.
Last year we preempted the 3rd game of the Stanley Cup. Anaheim was taking on Ottawa, and very few viewers in eastern North Carolina seemed to notice or care. This year it appears that old established teams from large northeastern markets draw a lot more interest in eastern North Carolina.
I don't think there is anything that we can say to die-hard fans that will satisfy their disappoint in not be able to see this game, but please remember that a lot of people are also dedicated to Children's Hospital.
Many people donated their time and their money to ensure that we have a first-rate health care facility to serve the pediatric needs in eastern North Carolina. At the conclusion of the telethon plans were announced to build a new, expanded Children's Hospital to help serve the growing needs across all of eastern North Carolina.
So while one game from the 2008 Stanley Cup series will fade from memory of the years, Children's Hospital will continue to serve and provide first-class care for our children for many years to come.