Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hockey Season Anyone?

This article was written by a close friend of mine - Keith Gideon. He has pointed out on multiple occasions that our web site has been severely lacking in hockey coverage, so I challenged him to write something for us to post, since Charlie and I are about as interested in hockey as, well, most of America. Here's what he came up with. If there actually is an NHL season, we just might make him an occasional contributor. - Kerrance James

I'm no journalist, nor do I consider myself a sports “expert”, but I do know that I love sports, one of which is the game of hockey.  This is my first article ever written, and after many, many revisions, I still know that there is a long way to go to get good at this stuff. Now that I've divulged my impressive credentials, I would like to comment on a few noteworthy things in hockey, particularly in the NHL.

       Why exactly is the NHL becoming so popular recently as a professional sport?  Many people see the NHL as an inferior sport to the big 3 (NFL, MLB, NBA) with their counterparts CFB and CBB close behind.  When the last lockout happened 8 years ago and the entire 2004-05 season was lost, the NHL lost a lot of its following with it. Ironically, with the 3rd NHL lockout since 1994 in the works, the NHL might hit the same speed bump as it did before. The diamond in the rough here is that the rules post-2005 lockout became tailored toward skill players and high speed offenses instead of goons and enforcers.

       After the lockout, ESPN and the NHL couldn’t come up with an agreement, and thus the NHL agreed on a deal with Versus and NBC instead. Versus was an atrocious start for the NHL, as it was only available to Comcast customers on a putrid network. Combine that with ESPN’s decision to cover more highlights from the WNBA, Golf, NASCAR, and anything other than NHL, the new NHL era didn’t get off to a Usain Bolt-like start. Whether you think ESPN is screwing the NHL because they don’t have a TV deal, or you really believe that the WNBA is more popular than the NHL, is your opinion. So here we are: eight years later and again beating our heads against the wall to the point of concussion.

       Under the “current” CBA, the players receive 57% of the share of revenue and the NHL receives 43%. Both sides differ on the new share of revenue, as well as what constitutes hockey related revenues. The NHL union director (Don Fehr) has also hinted at the “success” of the MLB’s no salary cap (which he instituted back in 1994), but the NHL is not interested in that type of proposal. It’s looking bleak that the NHL will be able to work out a deal, but technically they could still meet the October 11th season opener even after the September 15th deadline. This, however, is also a very tall prospect as negotiations from both sides fail to budge from their initial proposals.

       Aside from the threat of a lockout, the NHL really has started to hit its stride with the general public. I started getting into the NHL in the ‘90s during the tail end of the Lemieux era. Recently, however, the NHL has seen some new blood and some revival of sorts to the sport. With NBC starting to air NHL games on its multiple networks nationwide – and this past season being the first time in the NHL’s 95 years of existence that every post-season game was televised nationally – the NHL is gaining popularity. Under the new NHL/NBC deal, they will show 100 regular season NHL games (about 4 per week), which nearly double the number aired last season. Here are some of the TV ratings/records from this past post-season:

-Conference Quarterfinals ratings best on record
-Conference Semifinals ratings best on record
-First three rounds most-watched in 15 years
-Los Angeles posts record ratings for Stanley Cup Final
-NBC Sports Network up 12% for all playoffs vs. 2011
-NBC/NBC Sports Network combination up 4% for all playoffs vs. 2011
-For the entirety of the playoffs, NBC Sports Network averaged 1.030 million viewers, the highest audience for a single cable network since 2002 (ESPN; 1.295 million viewers).

       These aren’t the only stats that show the growth of the NHL. The NHL’s Winter Classic has been a nationwide hit. On January 1st 2011 the Penguins and Capitals faced off in the Winter Classic, receiving 4.5 million viewers, which made it the most watched NHL game in 36 years. Most impressive is that these numbers were achieved during the Rose Bowl between Wisconsin and TCU, as well as running into the start of an NFL Monday night double header, and the Fiesta Bowl. Although these games pulled in 10-20 million viewers, the NHL was able to draw viewers on a day full of family gatherings and big money football games. The NHL is still in its infancy relative to the big 3 in America, but, lockout pending, I could see a huge surge of popularity in the NHL amongst sports lovers in the near future.

1 comment:

  1. Just the other day I watched an hour of SportsCenter, and I thought the major four sports were NFL, NBA, MLB, and Nascar...