Ever since the Olympics, and all the botched broadcasting by NBC, and the subsequent outrage from the hockey community, I have been considering a couple aspects about hockey, and its popularity in the US.
There have been many observations by hockey bloggers, writers, and fans about the discrepancy of coverage between hockey and the other big name sports (Football, baseball, and basketball).
From frustration that the McNabb trade garnered more media interested then the Capitals domination of the Pens on April 6, to the confusion as to why some mundane off season Redskins practice gets more attention then Ovechkin.
My question is though, do we, as hockey fans really want negative aspects that come with nationwide popularity and coverage?
First, the positives of gaining national recognition and coverage by major media outlets.
1) More games nationally televised, naturally since there are 82 games in a season, every game cannot be nationally televised like football.
2) More coverage=more exposure
More exposure means more people getting to know the game of hockey, more kids playing in rinks, more colleges getting hockey programs, "non-traditional markets" gaining legitimacy from real competition and strong fan-bases
3) With the scrutiny of the nation, potentially more of a response by the NHL management to perceived mistakes "Wheel of Justice" for example. More pressure from the press to have consistent quality management and administration.
4) More sold out stadiums
5) More revenue,
6) More attractive to European players. ect.
Now what I see to be the negatives
1) Media over exposure.
A.k.a journalism that practically dips into tabloid level reporting.
Imagine a story about how Ovechkin escaped the clutches of the dark Soviet nation, and he and his brother's role in the Russian mafia, and how it resulted in his brother's death.
Do we really mind that only a handful of DC's reporters are covering the WSH-MTL series? They way I see it, Caps Nation has responded negatively to non-hockey journalists coverage of the Capitals (Mike Wise, Mike Wilbon, ect.)
If hockey rises to the popularity of football, does that really mean it will generate better journalism/ higher quality media coverage?
Naturally the swarms of reporters will not remain hockey-illiterate, given the hypothetical popularity I am assigning it. Yet still, who says quantity=quality.
2) "Crosby vs Ovechkin"
We as hockey fans, and especially as Capitals fans may appreciate the quality of hockey that is generated when these two teams/ players meet. Yet most of us get a little sick of the hyper-promotion that this match-up receives. Whether it is because we solidly believe that Ovechkin is better then Crosby, or we do not like the idea that it is being advertised as one player vs the other and not one team vs the other team.
Popular sports feed superstar match-ups, and they will all be over-hyped to the point of insanity if hockey does gain national coverage.
3) Changing the game
This goes along with my 2nd potential negative.
Hockey is not likely to get new fans when people watch games like the Capital's April 1st victory over the Thrashers.Which was defensively strong, playoff like, "grinder" game. We Capitals fans loved this win because it was a "statement game", and example that we can play like that and win.
People are more likely to get attracted to the sport when watching "Superbowl 2.0", "Snovechkin" "The Game" or whatever you want to call it, being the Feb 7 victory over the Penguins, or games like the 6-5 win over the Rangers on Feb 4, end to end action lots of goals, hits, and saves. For us fans, it was obviously and exciting, stressful, and jubilant game, but when you look at it, neither team was playing very well. Lots of defensive breakdowns, poor saves, running around, ect.
I am afraid that pressure from national coverage will take comments like Lebrun's stance on the shootout,and use that as motivation to alter aspects of the game to make it "more popular".
I don't really have any ideas as to how the game might be
"popularized" but I do not like that prospect.
As hockey fans I think we have it perfect right now as it is.
You look at this year's end to the regular season, which, in the East came down to the last day of games. And you look at this year's playoffs with series tied all around, sold out crowds, white-outs, black-outs, snakes being thrown, OT finishes, 8th seed upsets (Only in the West, we hope), can it get any better then this?
We have quality coverage by quality writers, we have televised games, the competition is great, the fans are great, there is enough healthy debate about the league and its issues, and players and teams ect.
I think hockey has struck fantastic balance between the negatives of a sport that is too small, and the negatives of the big-name sports.
These are just my observations, would love your thoughts, criticisms, comments.
(Disclaimer: my first FanPost, and I am a formatting newbie)