Can the NHL overtake other sports in America?‏

Amber Alexander tries to answer the question: Can the NHL overtake other sports in America?

By Amber Alexander

You have controversy surrounding Big Ben in Pittsburgh, following the accusations of sexual abuse from a 20 year old.

Lebron James shocked everyone by going on national television to announce his signing to Miami Heat, leaving his home state of Ohio.

Cristiano Ronaldo is now a father to a baby whose mother is a waitress.

Countless accounts of steroid use by MLB players across the league have made it a joke to many.

So where does that leave hockey?

Hockey is the only sport you don’t hear hard accusations of players using illegal substances or having feuds with their teammates.

The steroid case in Washington, linking some Capital players, was probably the worse thing to happen this year in terms of illegal activities. That was later dropped and players who were questioned were cleared.

NHL ratings soared this year and it started when the Olympics were completed.
The year started off with the Olympics in Canada, and what an event that was.

The first United States vs. Canada game drew in 8.22 million viewers all together, making it the 2nd highest program of all time. Not surprisingly Pittsburgh drew the highest number of viewers, doubling the national average.

The Finale between the United States and Canada drew the largest TV audience in the United States since the 1980 Winter Games. At least 52.9 million United States viewers watched the gold medal game.

After the Olympics, hockey in the United States grew drew more and more audiences. People who watched the gold medal game saw what many hockey fans already knew: this sport is different from all others.

Hockey players have been praised as some of the kindest in all of pro sports and some of the most giving. It’s no surprise hockey has been given so much praise from fan bases around the league.

This sport is growing and the $2 million raise in the salary cap shows that.

TV ratings for NBC have gone up and the many rivalries across the NHL are producing more and more fans. For the Penguins, you have two of the biggest in the game with Philadelphia and Washington.

Gary Bettman knows this and is putting one of them on display in this year’s Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic — Penguins vs. Capitals. It will be exciting to say the least.

These exciting match-ups are putting hockey in position to compete with other sports.

This year’s Stanley Cup playoffs are just an example of what this sport can do. It went head to head with the NBA finals and even produced higher ratings on some nights.

In the U.S, football, basketball and baseball are the sports you commonly see as the most viewed, but hockey is being watched by more Americans every week.

I’m one of those who has to watch hockey games on NHL Game Center online because I can’t see them on TV unless Versus or NBC covers them. That needs to change. Hockey needs to branch out more which would put it in a position to compete with the other big sports.

As long as the NHL and NHLPA can keep their CBA level, hockey will become a mainstay sport.

No controversy in hockey makes fans gravitate towards it.

This year will be exciting and as a Penguin fan, it will be one to remember for a long time.

***Amber is a hockey fan from the deep south. She prefers a Penguins match-up over any College Football game and enjoys writing about hockey in general. A Journalism major, Amber is a news reporter for her local newspaper. You can follow her on twitter here.


9 Comments on this Post

  1. The CBA may be what screws this all up. Just like the first lot of Bettman expansion in the 90’s. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Get a new CBA signed and the sport will keep moving forward nicely

  2. Evilpens

    NOPE !! as much as we all love it, Hockey is a Niche sport

  3. The NHL can’t overcome the other Major sports on a few simple facts:

    1. It’s too low scoring for the average American sports fan
    2. The gameplay is too continuous in order to meet serious advertising revenue (not enough commercials)
    3. The lack of a serious network for coverage, although VS is getting better. ESPN would rather through the NHL on ESPN2 which has fewer viewer than the flagship station due to different cable/satellite packages (NBC? Meh…)
    4. Hockey can’t be spoonfed to the avg viewer, also due to the game speed, the NFL, MLB, NBA all have consistent stoppages in play…the NHL doesn’t.
    5. The NHL schedule isn’t as consistent as the NFL (You KNOW that Sunday and Mondays = Football)

    You can’t really compare the NHL to Olympic hockey simply because people are rooting for their respective countries. Yes, hockey is growing but also growing is the inability to market it and that has to start at the most basic level….children.
    It’s extremely expensive to put your children into hockey at the youth level, as opposed to soccer, basketball or baseball and cost is the first factor a parent looks at in regards to their child’s activities.

    As far as steroids in hockey….oh it’s been touched on, do some research on on a fellow named John Kordic, it’s a sad tale that ended badly

    Not trying to be downtrodden, only trying to add perspectives.

  4. I hate it when you bring logic to an argument, go get back on a bike and pull some arms off some cadavers…. I love that you actually said that!

  5. By the way you both might be right but it’s no fun being kill joys…. 🙁

  6. Evilpens

    Oh Well, as Dennis Leary once said “Life Sucks Get a ****** Helmet”

    Unfortunately true though, Hockey is a Niche sport

  7. I understand Hockey is a niche sport but I do see it having more attention and coverage than 3-5 years ago.

    As long as NHL and Bettman keep the problems under
    control, I see the sport improving more

  8. Gunner Staal

    Hockey will not catch other sports because of socio-economics. It cost too much to play for inner city folks and thus does not create/acquire fans in those areas.

    The NBA is a terrible league IMO. I think the only reason it is currently ahead of the NHL is because of this dynamic, not because of the appeal of the actual sport. I believe that the NHL owners are doing better than the NBA owners right now, Ted Leonsis said so much.

    The key is getting a person to a game in person, then they are sold. High definition television and in the short future 3D television have/will do hockey a great service more so than any other sport.

  9. A very thought-provoking read. I intend to come back to your blog again soon.

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