So, it’s finally happened. This year none of Detroit, Colorado, Dallas, Rangers, or Philadelphia are serious Cup contenders. It’s probably a good thing then that ESPN is out of the picture, because those are the only teams they knew how to market.
The NHL is in popularity decline for many reasons, but among them is the atrophy of some of the franchises in popular hockey cities. The Blackhawks and Bruins suffer under two of the worst owners not on Long Island. When I lived in Chicago, the Blackhawks were almost a memory, not a current reality.
The NHL has spent the last 15 years expanding. Maybe now, with the finances back under control, it should consider attending to its base. Bring back at least two teams to Canada, and make efforts to reinvigorate former great hockey cities. The Rangers are the only team on that list that command a lead hockey market as well as a top media market. LA proved in the 80s that it too could be a great hockey city. Bringing hockey back into people’s minds in New York, Chicago, and LA would go a long way towards increasing popularity, but could also leverage the pop-culture appearances that fads in these cities tend to create.
Meanwhile, the Cup has been hanging out in strange places like North Carolina, Central Florida, and Dallas. Which are the 29th, 12th, and 7th largest media markets overall, but have yet to prove that people’s appetite for Friends parallels their appetite for hockey.