I consider myself a rather avid sports fan. Yes, I have my favorite sports but I will watch anything and all sports if the event is somewhat entertaining. Which leads me to the National Hockey League. I don’t consider myself a huge fan of the league but I do watch several games a year. The sport is a refreshing break from the countless games of pro and college basketball on television. The games have a good fast flow to them. There are not constant stops in play for timeouts like what happens in many basketball games. Yet, the NHL typically has dismal ratings for many of its games including the playoffs. I find that really hard to believe especially come playoff time.
The NHL playoffs have always been very entertaining because of the unpredictable nature of the series. It is not uncommon for an upset to happen and that alone makes for good viewing. There is nothing more boring to watch than a series go the way it should. You need to have a little intrigue like a number one seed struggling in the opening series or getting bounced out of the playoffs. Until recently, the NBA playoffs were way too predictable and one might argue that the NHL playoffs are just, if not more exciting than the NBA playoffs.
I believe the NHL has a few problems that must be addressed before it becomes more popular with the American sports viewers. First of all, the players have to be marketed better. A non-hockey sports fan will be more likely to tune in to watch a particular player like a Sydney Crosby. The NBA has constantly marketed their players for years and it has produced great results and interest. Maybe the NHL can learn something from the NBA.
Another problem the league has is that it is a regional sport. Quite frankly, most people in the United States have not been exposed to hockey. Sure people like in this state, Minnesota and places like Michigan and states in the northeast have grown up watching hockey. But how do you suddenly expand that to warm weather areas like the deep south? The only ice those folks deal with are the ice cubes in their drinks. I think the more exposure a person has to a sport growing up, the more they tend to watch it in their adult life. That is why football, baseball and basketball are so popular.
The television situation for hockey is not bad now that NBC has started their own sports network. They have done a very good job of covering the games. But it was a shame that the so-called leader of sports ESPN decided to drop its NHL coverage years ago. They seem to find time to find time in their programming to have poker, why not have a few hockey games a week? The exposure that ESPN has would have been great for the sport.
I would encourage any sports fan in this country go outside their own little viewing box and watch a little hockey from time to time. This die-hard hoops guy does and likes it.