For years, the NHL has fought a losing battle with the NBA as the most popular winter sport. In fact, of the big four sports in the US, hockey has trailed as a distant fourth in popularity for decades. I believe I have some tips to make the NHL, and one tip to make hockey in general, more popular in the US.
First, let’s start with the NHL and its main problem. Gary Bettman is the worst thing for the sport. For those who do not know, Gary Bettman is the NHL commissioner, and he is the most hated sports commissioner in all of the sports leagues. Yes, even more hated than Roger Goodell. The only good thing Bettman has done is bring in more revenue to the NHL.
However, since becoming commissioner in 1993, Bettman has overseen three NHL lockouts. One lockout, the 2004-05 season, was for a whole year. In 2004-05, there was not a single NHL game played. Many fans left the sport after the lockout because they were tired of Bettman and the owners caring only about money. This has led to a decline in the popularity of hockey around the US.
Another issue Bettman has created is the fact there are way too many teams in the NHL. The product the league is putting out right now is saturated. No one wants to watch a blowout in hockey and that seems to happen every night. The NHL should get rid of teams that do not have a huge fan base, such as the Phoenix Coyotes and the Florida Panthers. No one watches the sport in these and other southern markets and these franchises are not making any money. By giving the axe to franchises like this, every team would have great players and the league would be more competitive. The NHL brand would then be better and easier to promote, which would make it more popular.
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The way I would fix hockey all around the world is to simply find a way to lower prices. Hockey is a rich man’s game. It is very expensive to try to afford all of the hockey gear. Compare this to basketball where literally all you need to play is a ball. This makes it easy for lower income families to play the game and to develop a love for the game. Then the families are more likely to love and watch the NBA rather than the NHL. If the companies that make hockey gear lowered their prices, then maybe lower income families could afford to play the game and, eventually, love the game.
Hockey has many uphill battles to try and become more popular in the US. I hope that over the next few years hockey and the NHL can get a bigger foothold in the US. Then finally, people in the US will realize how great a game hockey is.
Photo Credit: Google Images labeled for reuse