As pathetic as it sounds, the National Hockey Leaguetrails Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and, in some markets, Major League Soccer in regards to interest among average American sports fans. Fortunately, there are several things that the league can do to increase that interest level and propel the NHL back into the mainstream.
The NHL needs to put the entire Stanley Cup Finals on network television. Fans should be presented with the option to easily watch every game from the league’s premier sporting event. Although later games in the series receive higher television ratings, the earlier games help build the drama, and broadcasting these on NBC as well would result in even higher ratings for the final two or three contests.
In addition, the league needs to continue participating in the Winter Olympics. This international stage is a tremendous advertisement for the sport and for the NHL. The gold medal game at the 2010 Olympics, an epic overtime game won by Canada over the United States, was the most watched hockey contest on American television in 30 years. More than 27 million enjoyed that historic competition, more than had viewed the preceding World Series, NBA Finals, Final Four and Rose Bowl.
However, the single most important thing the NHL has to do is to stop having labor disputes. Fans need to be able to count on hockey at the arena and on the television from October to April every year, and the Stanley Cup Finals need to take place every June. The league is still recovering from the cancellation of the 2005 Finals, especially in terms of television coverage.
Finally, Mr. Bettman, watch the replays of the most recent Super Bowl trophy presentations as well as the MLB and NBA championship presentations. Then take a look at your performance in Boston several weeks ago. Notice anything?
Thanks for visiting the Sin Bin on Sunday. Make it a great week.