Two months ago today, hockey was officially back as one of the four major sports. Today, it is no where to be found. To the surprise of most, hockey is actually still here and the Stanley Cup Finals are currently in progress. The Chicago Blackhawks lead the series versus’ the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-0.
Following a spectacular performance from Team USA in this year’s Winter Olympics, our country was at last captivated by the grand game of hockey. SportsCenter was leading off its telecasts with its highlights and most of all, we wanted more. With such young American born talent as Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks and Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils, the NHL finally had the players to market its newfound resurgence into the sports world.
With an incredible opportunity to capitalize on the tidal wave of momentum, the NHL dropped the puck. But why? How could no one outside the cities of Chicago and Philadelphia care about the Stanley Cup?!
The majority of the NHL’s regular season games can only be found on the Outdoor Network or Versus. As big of a sports fan, ODN and Versus are not on top of my to-watch list even if I’m lucky enough to find the channel. The league must forcefully insert itself into the public eye, allowing its viewers and targeted audience the ability to watch their product. Having more games on relevant sports networks such as ESPN and Fox Sports is critical. But the problem may lie within the actual product, not the provider.
To watch a game on television in its entirety can become drawn out and boring for the casual sports fan. The argument can be made that hockey is the most exciting sport to watch in person. With the constant action and thrill a goal being scored, it’s truly an awesome rush of emotion. But on television, it’s difficult to feel as you’re disconnected from the explosion of that emotion and energy within each arena.
The NHL has done a poor job of marketing its players and product. The only players to be featured regularly are Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitials. Regardless of the fact that both that both of these players are foreign born athletes, there are many players throughout the league that would be terrific representatives hockey.
The NHL must build a foundation by getting its young athletes (while continuing to include Crosby and Ovechkin as well) into the public sports forum, enabling the opportunity to progress and reach its potential with a young fan base. It will not be easy, but in time it is very possible. Hockey is not dead, but the clock is ticking.
In the meantime, tune in tomorrow night at 8:00pm on Versus, for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Though leading 2-0, this series is far from over as the Flyers have already come back from a 3-0 deficit in an earlier round. This is an opportunity to witness the great hockey. The skating is sharper, the shots are faster and the hits are truly bone rattling. These men will leave it all on the ice, including teeth, for hockey immortality and to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.