Last night marked the end of the first NHL season since the strike/lockout of 2004-2005. The Stanley Cup playoffs — arguably the most exciting tournament in sports — begin Friday night, but will anybody be watching, other than Don Cherry and Barry Melrose?
While attendance was up in 75% of NHL arenas this season, the sport continues to struggle to attract new fans. The league has slipped to No. 5 in popularity for many, behind the NFL, NBA, MLB and NASCAR.
The Good Old Days
Back in the days when the NHL was on national TV two or three nights a week, it was easy to get into the game. There were always great players and great teams to keep us interested. The rivalry between the Bruins and Canadiens in the 70s was as intense as the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is now. Wayne Gretzky and the great Edmonton teams of the 80s were amazing to watch, and Mario Lemieuxs dominance and Mark Messiers resurrection of the New York Rangers kept us going through the 90s.
There are a host of young players today who should be garnering our accolades, but because of a lack of exposure and poor marketing by the league, these would-be household names are...