Let’s face it; hockey is not the #1 sport in the USA, but the league is positioned to have some great exposure in the USA over the next few months in particular. Coming off an awesome 2014 Winter Classic and with the 2014 Winter Olympics and six highly hyped NHL Stadium Series outdoor games, many Americans who typically may not have hockey on their sports radar will find themselves watching the game and potentially falling in love with it.
Here are six reasons why I think popularity in the USA for hockey will be on the rise!
The Mighty Ducks Generation
Reason one is because the movie “The Mighty Ducks.” As a Kings fan I hate to give credit to anything Ducks related, but if I’m being honest, the single biggest reason for hockey’s increase in popularity in the USA is the movie “The Mighty Ducks.” The movie inspired a generation to try youth hockey, and legitimized it as an alternative to Pop Warner football and Little League baseball.
Success of Non-Traditional Powerhouse Teams
The second reason for hockey’s continued increase in popularity in the states is the success of non-traditional market teams in the NHL®. Teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Anaheim Ducks, and the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup in recent years has brought hockey to many Americans who didn’t grow up next to a frozen pond.
High Definition Television
Of the four major sports, I believe hockey has benefited the most from high definition TV. Hockey is a fast sport, and in the past it was difficult to follow the puck and the speed of the game on TV. However, because of HDTV, it is now easy to follow the speed of the game, and viewers can see the passion of the athletes like never before.
NHL® Players in the Olympics
Another reason why the popularity of hockey is increasing in America is because NHL® players are now allowed to compete in the Olympic Games. The winter games bring Americans together who don’t generally follow the NHL® are all of a sudden enamored with hockey. These new viewers, paired with the fact that the U.S. Olympic team is now consistently a contender for the gold, can only help to increase the popularity of the sport in the U.S.A.
Yes, NHL®’s commissioner Gary Bettman makes the list. Hockey fans can be pretty hard on the commissioner, especially at the NHL® Draft, but when I take a long look at what he has done while leading the sport, I have to admit he has been good for the NHL® and for the popularity of hockey in America. In fact, many of the reasons on my list here are initiatives Gary Bettman championed. It is because of him that many non-traditional hockey markets got NHL® teams. It is also because of him that NHL® players can now compete in the Olympic Games. The Winter Classic, big TV deals, and rule changes are all things that Bettman is responsible for which have led to an increasingly popular NHL®.
The Players are Amazing
The last reason why hockey is increasing in popularity is simply because it is an amazing game played by tremendous athletes! Not only are hockey players great to watch on the ice, but they are great guys off the ice as well. They are humble, articulate, dedicated and fun guys. They are excellent role models that take the time to interact with their fans and will always sign autographs. They make small gestures that mean a lot to fans and it is hard to imagine players in other sports acting the same way.
Will America ever embrace hockey like it does baseball, football and basketball? I think with some of the progressive moves the league is making it just might. You mix in how great it is to see playoff hockey and events in the collectibles market like the Double Rookie Class and National Hockey Card Day (yes, I’m contractually obligated to throw that in here) and it is hard to see the NHL® not increasing in popularity in the coming years. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comment section below!