Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Is America a hockey wasteland?
I saw Michael Jordan on TV the other day watching the Chicago Blackhawks play live at the United Center during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Vince Vaughn has been watching Blackhawk games in the crowd (see pic above) during this Cup run, too. Other stars have shown their faces as well.
Which, for me, raises the following question: Why doesn't the NHL do a better job at capitalizing on what popularity the league already has in the United States?
I know that it's popular in these parts, especially in the wake of the fiasco that is the Phoenix Coyotes, to believe that the United States will always be a no-go zone for hockey. But I'm not so sure.
As we've seen during these playoffs, some of America's biggest celebrities want to be seen at an NHL playoff game. New York is the biggest media market there is and, as Wayne Gretzky said, it's a big hockey town. Same goes for Philadelphia, Boston, and so on.
Well, that's because hockey is a regional game in the States, people will argue. Yes, but look at the regions in which the game has traction. It's even got a celebrity following in Los Angeles, of all places. These are not frontier outposts, but some of the most important markets on the continent.
I have to believe that hockey has a foundation in the States that many are not willing to take a closer look at. Instead, the NHL has decided to expand rapidly into areas that will questionably support hockey in the long-term and, in the process, has given critics ample opportunity to mock the idea that the game can gain serious traction south of the border.
I don't think it has to be that way. Maybe Michael Jordan and Vince Vaughn don't either.