Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Puck Exodus

With apologises to poet Emma Lazarus...

"Give us your tired, your poor,
Your huddled NHL clubs yearning to skate free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed hockey teams, to me:
We light the scoring lamp beside the golden door
Canada beacons.
There are plenty of signs that the game simply doesn’t cut it as a mass-appeal American sport:

•A recent Associated Press story pointed out that many major American newspapers in NHL markets were declining to send reporters to cover the Stanley Cup final. The league is so desperate for coverage in the U.S. that it has been making players available for phone interviews and e-mailing players’ quotes to newspapers in American NHL markets that aren’t covering the games live. Meanwhile, Canadian NHL cities are all represented by newspapers at the league final.

•By now, everyone has heard the horror stories about NHL television ratings in the U.S. According to The Associated Press, for Game 2 of the series, only 446,000 U.S. television sets were tuned in. That’s 33 per cent less than for Game 2 of last year’s Stanley Cup final. Compare that to the ratings for the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball playoffs and it’s obvious why many Americans don’t regard the NHL as a true major sport.

•One of the hottest topics during these Stanley Cup playoffs has been what will happen with the Nashville Predators franchise, when will it move from what’s become a terrible market? Even with the new hockey economics, which have helped small-market teams, several U.S. franchises are hurting.

While the NHL continues to struggle in many American markets, in Canada the league is enjoying a resurgence under the NHL’s new deal. Attendance is solid and television ratings remain strong. The soaring Canadian dollar, the salary cap, revenue sharing and the general passion for the game and the NHL in Canada make these much better times for the league in this country than was the case only a few years ago.

Yet instead of capitalizing on better times in Canada, the league appears determined to forge ahead on shoving the game down the throats of American sports fans who don’t want or appreciate NHL hockey.

The motivation is obviously the money, or at least the dream of tapping into the big American spending machine. Though it’s clear the NHL’s U.S. appeal is confined to a few regions, and most of the new markets die off once the shine of a new franchise begins to fade, the NHL keeps pushing.

Instead of waiting for the improbable to happen, it would make more sense for the NHL to return to markets where it is supported and appreciated.

Look north! Winnipeg could be a wise destination. Southern Ontario could easily handle another team. And Quebec City remains a prime market.

Maybe the league needs a new test for judging the potential of new or even existing hockey homes. If the proponents aren’t familiar with Stompin’ Tom’s hockey anthem, don’t allow them to have a franchise.

(my emphasis)
Agreed, if you don't know the song, you don't get a team.

Bring those teams that are not loved and appreciated home to the hockey promised land.

So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Americans and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey - the home of the Orr's, Howe's, Gretzky's, Sawchuk's, Lemieux's and Lafleur's. And now the cry of the Canadians has reached Me, and I have seen the way the Americans are oppressing them.
(Exodus 3:3-10)

Again, with much apologises.

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