hockey: the elephant in the room

I’m just gonna put this out there. Hockey is the awkward, red-headed stepchild of major league sports. It’s true. It is.

Let me paint this picture for you with a high school metaphor. Major League Baseball is the older, more accomplished brother that’s been around forever. The responsible one. Sometimes a drag but socially adapted and successful.  The National Football League is the stud of the family, the popular one that knows everyone and wins Homecoming King in high school. Everyone gossips about him and is really tuned into his life. The National Basketball Association is the youngest of the three, that has to live  in the shadow of the other two, but when you actually look closer, he’s found his own group of friends and really thrives in his environment. Then, there’s the National Hockey League, the red-headed stepchild.

This cute baby represents the NHL

I say this for a multitude of reasons. The main one being that the Hockey Championship, the Stanley Cup, is aired on the Versus Network.  VERSUS NETWORK.  This happened because ESPN failed to pick up the option for the Stanley Cup playoffs. VERSUS NETWORK. Do you know how many people DON’T get Versus Network? Hell, it was just dropped from DirecTV in September, so that further diminishes its reach. No offense Versus, this is a major win for you, but it’s a major loss for hockey fans, especially casual ones. Leagues should go out of their way to make the sport accessible, and frankly, Verses, you are not accessible to a lot of people.

Let’s put this in perspective though, this is the championship of the sport and none of the ‘major’ sports channels care  enough broadcast it. Some may argue that hockey just isn’t a television sport–In 2006, a scant 3% of NHL revenue came from television, compared to 66% of the NFL. It doesn’t change the fact though that ESPN broadcasts bowling for God’s sake, but they passed on hockey…awkward red-headed stepchild. The loss of the 2004-2005 NHL season due to a lockout worsened the matter and it seemed that nobody really cared. Hockey is still bounding back from the strike…but it’s starting to do great things.

the artist formerly known as OLN

I would go out on a limb and say that Sidney Crosby has revitalized the NHL. Whether you love him or hate him, and there plenty in both camps, he IS the answer to hockey’s drought. He is a marketable, young, talented star. Last night, his hat trick in the second period led to a 5-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres. He is a star. A star is ALWAYS a good thing for any sport. It makes it fun to watch, it draws people in. We were reminded last night, for the millionth time, that Sidney Crosby can, single-handedly, go on a scoring binge and change the course of the game in less than 20 minutes. He is what the NHL needs.

Here he comes to save the day!

I’m not going to lie to you, I am a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. I love them. I love Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury (“McFleury”), Evgeni Malkin and Matt Cooke. The Pens are awesome. The city of Pittsburgh LOVES them. I get a lot of flack sometimes from people who say that no-one cared about the Pens from 2002-2006 and that this ‘bandwagon’ stuff is ridiculous. That Pens fans are fair-weather and we are just lucky to have Crosby. I say that America abandoned hockey during that period. The NHL was declining steadily in viewership and attendance during this time. It’s ALWAYS been the awkward turtle of professional sports, coming in last during its playoffs/championships. If you want to blame me for watching hockey more now that the league has busted its butt to get some stars, fine. I think it’s stupid though. Every other sport has great world-known ambassadors: hockey had two (Gretzky and Lemieux) … now it has three with Crosby. Hockey fans should quit nit-picking and just be happy that the sport is finally gaining the traction it deserves and coming out of its rut in America. ‘Cause let’s get serious, it’s an AWESOME game to watch and COMPLETELY underrated. Here’s to hoping that the NHL goes from the awkward pubescent teenager to the studly man you wished you looked at twice ten years ago.

The Greats

What are your thoughts on the NHL? Are you watching the games? (You should be!) Do you get angry at the bandwagoners? Why do you think hockey has never truly caught on in the U.S.?

Talk to me people 🙂



3 Responses to “hockey: the elephant in the room”

  1. 1 Nick Summy
    February 2, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I could go into the reasoning but this article explains it the best: http://puckthemedia.wordpress.com/2008/11/23/okay-lets-talk-about-this-like-adults-how-espn-nearly-destroyed-the-nhl-on-tv-or-why-the-nhl-should-never-go-back-to-espn/

    That said, lets talk about the real red-headed stepchild of professional sports: The MLS or Major League Soccer. Not only is it not on tv, no one even watches or cares about it. I can name 2 teams, the Galaxy (because of Beckham)and the Heat, just because they are so close to me. I don’t even know the name of their championship or how it works! Hell the PBA gets more airtime than soccer. At least you can blame Fox Sports and ESPN for the NHL’s popularity. The MLS has nothing to blame but their fake injuries and boring games

    • February 2, 2010 at 11:09 am

      I agree, I think MLS is by far, the one sport that has NEVER caught on. I left it out of this post for two reasons: 1) Globally, it is the largest sport…by far! 2) I don’t consider the MLS on the same level as the MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL. For all of the reasons you listed above. If we are going with my ‘children in a family’ metaphor, I’d say the MLS is the paperboy you wave to every Sunday morning.

      I would not say that the games are boring though, and I am personally pumped for the World Cup later this year! 🙂

  2. 3 Clare
    February 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Um I just realized I commented on the wrong blog. I think i commented on your other one! Whoopsies! Well, this one is just as(if not more) charming as the other one… but i still know nothing about sports!

    At any rate, I wish you all the best in your amazing blogging adventures!


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