Imagine a year where the Rangers, Flyers, Detroit, and Colorado are the final four teams. It’s what we’re told to expect every year. In the interim, ESPN, the NHL, and, now, OLN have been forced to make some excuses up for the Rangers, but they finally got them back in. Just sub in a southern team like Dallas, Florida, Carolina, or Tampa.
Well, that happened, if you remember in 1997, and then Detroit won, just like they’d been [i.e. the league et al.] wanting since at least 1994 (they wanted Detroit to face the Rangers in the final but San Jose ruined that).
The first hockey I watched was Olympic hockey, and the announcers were well within their rights to push for Team USA. The first Olympics I remember was 1984, and the US team there was in the shadow on the Miracle, and didn’t do so well. But isn’t it strange that three things all started happening at about the same time (1) Bettman (2) expanstion and (3) blatant pimping of certain teams by the media?
National broadcasts in this country show big market teams even if they are boring to watch. I’ll give you an example. There’s a decent chance that the second round will feature a Calgary-Edmonton matchup. If that’s the case, don’t you think that will make for better theater than some mid-season meaningless game between the Kings and the Rangers?
The NHL operates under a pervasive inferiority complex. They feel like they have to pimp the game in places it has no organic base and change it to make it appear more interesting to the casual observer.
People who dont’ even like sports like hockey if they’ve been to a game in person. These things spread like this: some core group of people really gets into something and others get interested, try it, and like it. This way you build by nourishing the most rabid fans and expanding outword. You don’t try to please people who are fickle and then fill in the middle until you reach depressed alienated former hardcore fans who have switched to college or junior viewing.
They shouldn’t have put teams in those southern cities until they had years or rabid support for an AHL team or some other organic sign of fandom. It diluted the talent pool, and that, more than anything caused the “dead puck” era.