America’s Game, Eh: NHL Has Chance to Capture U.S. Attention

It’s no secret that Canada loves its hockey. Need proof? In 1994, the country officially recognized ice hockey as its official sport. Need more proof? Check out these reactions of Canadians after Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal in the 2010 Winter Olympics that gave Canada the gold medal.

Stars like Sidney Crosby have helped the NHL gain popularity in the U.S.

Of course much of America loves hockey too, but with the prevalence of football, baseball and basketball, hockey has seemed to take a back seat in the eyes of U.S. sports fans. That may change this spring, however.

This article by the Wall Street Journal points out how the NHL is primed to grow in America this year. Of the 16 teams that made the Stanley Cup Playoffs, only two hail from Canada, the Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators. With each of these teams falling behind in their opening round series, it seems like a good bet that this year’s Cup-winning team will hail from America for the 18th season in a row.

Next, consider the fact that hockey-crazed markets such as New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia all have playoff teams and all seem to have legitimate opportunities to win it all. This year’s playoff field also includes squads from non-traditional hockey markets such as Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix and Nashville, which allows the game to grow.

Of course star power means a lot in keeping fans interested, and some of the biggest names in the game are being featured this postseason. Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Tyler Seguin, Claude Giroux, Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar are just some of the stars vying for hockey’s ultimate prize, and all are age 26 or younger. Exciting players like this can fill up the highlight reel.

The NHL also has the added benefit of a shortened NBA season. The NBA didn’t get going until Christmas Day, which pushed the start of its postseason to late April. College basketball just ended, baseball is only getting going, Tiger Woods isn’t dominating golf. Right now, there isn’t much in the sports landscape competing with the NHL.

Finally, NBC Sports has gone all in for this year’s playoffs. For the first time since the league went to a 16-team playoff format, every playoff game will be nationally televised either on NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC or the NHL Network. This far results have been positive, with TV ratings up nearly across the board. An added bonus: 46 percent of games (through early Saturday night) have gone to overtime. Pretty cool, eh?

Photo (cc) by Dan4th Nicholas and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.


One response to this post.

  1. […] mid-April I posted about how the Stanley Cup playoffs were primed to draw big TV viewer ratings based on the lack of activity among other sports and the bevy of talented players in big markets. […]


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