DETROIT – For the Detroit sports fan who insists on having it all – and being in there in person to see it – this is sweet agony.
On Saturday, there will be the oddest of doubleheaders – Peguins versus Red Wings at downtown Joe Louis Arena at 8 p.m., with Celtics versus Pistons at the The Palace in suburban Auburn Hills starting a half hour later.
No city until now has hosted a Stanley Cup final game and an NBA conference final game on the same day, according to STATS LLC.
NHL and NBA officials feel for Motor City sports fans, but can’t do anything about it. The scheduling process simply doesn’t offer enough slack.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank calls the convergence “unbelievably unusual” but says the Eastern Conference finals dates are locked in for nearly a year, taking into consideration TV needs and arena availability.
“It’s set up so far in advance,” he said. “There’s not any flexibility.”
NHL spokesman Frank Brown terms the conflict unavoidable.
“We explored the possibility of alternatives, and there were none,” he said.
Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood is disappointed fans must choose which game to watch Saturday, Monday and also Wednesday, when Game 3 of the Cup finals will be played in Pittsburgh and Game 5 of the Pistons series is in Boston.
“They should be on different days, let’s put it that way,” Osgood said. “When it gets down to the final four in both leagues, they have to find a way to get it done. It’s business.”
Pistons coach Flip Saunders, who counts himself a hockey fan, sees a silver lining in the overlapping contests.
“For the fans, you feel bad for them,” he said. “But also feel good because not many people have an opportunity to be in a town this late in the year with both teams still playing.”
Not everyone’s upset, however. Bars are pumped for extra business.
Doc’s Sports Retreat, a sports bar in suburban Livonia, will have 100 televisions going and expects to reach its capacity of 450 patrons, general manager Todd Clickner said.
The majority of the TVs there will be tuned to the Wings and Pistons games. A few smaller ones will display that other Detroit team: the Tigers, who host Minnesota at 7:05 p.m.
For all the commotion about basketball and hockey, the Tigers say 40,000 tickets had been sold as of Thursday. The team will continue its practice of showing Pistons and Red Wings playoff scores on the video scoreboard.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland knows it would not be diplomatic to say whether he’s rooting more for the Pistons or Red Wings.
“It’s a no-win situation for me,” he said. “The political answer is, I’m rooting for the guy that is signing the check.”