The Incredible Shrinking League

The NHL is coming back. It will be smaller than ever. This is not a bad thing.
Share |

Okay. Deep breath. Hockey is coming.

I feel sort of unqualified to write about this from Mexico, where even less people care about the NHL than do in the United States, but also sort of extra qualified. When the puck drops in a couple weeks, even less people are going to watch hockey than did before. This is what happens when owners in marginal sports leagues alienate their fanbases over relatively piddly amounts of money and power. This is a new reality we must calibrate ourselves to. (We being hockey fans; for everybody else nothing much changes).

Even before the lockout, the NHL was smaller than its self-perception. It was smaller than golf and tennis and MMA. It was smaller than Major League Soccer. (Although it does have one thing in common with the well-managed and upward-trending MLS: it is much more popular in-person than on television). Now the NHL will be smaller still. Shrinking salary cap, shrinking contract lengths, shrinking audience.

The other day on Grantland, Brian Phillips wrote about dismissive comments that FIFA President Sepp Blatter made regarding Major League Soccer. But more than that, Brian was writing about the difference between a sport and a business. “Sport generates economic activity, but sport isn't inherently economic,” Brian wrote. “Sport is just some people playing a game.”

He is right. But the unfortunate corollary is that sport as business has a huge impact on sport as sport. It’s the business that made people want to Be Like Mike, etc etc. It’s the business side of Sepp Blatter’s FIFA that has helped make soccer not just a global phenomenon, but “soccer as global phenomenon” a brand in itself, with K’Naan blaring on the stereo and poor kids playing in a cinematically-lit Buenos Aires alleyway in, somehow, an Adidas commercial.

One way of looking at this would be to say, “okay, the NHL has fucked up its own brand but not even Gary Bettman can ruin Greater Hockey.” This would be true in certain parts of Minnesota and areas further north. Another way of looking at this would be to say that unlike soccer, hockey is not commercially successful or universally popular enough to withstand the continued stupidity of its most famous and successful league.

Even before the last lockout, hockey and the NHL had to think a lot smaller than soccer in terms of global appeal and commercial potential. (In retrospect, some of the NHLs sillier expansion efforts into crowded sunny markets were nothing more than the nocturnal emissions of hubristic millionaire owners).

Now the league’s path toward a leaner, more efficient self is no longer destiny - it is reality, and the NHL must embrace it rather than fight against it. In many cases, hockey teams remain extremely popular locally. Fans will take winning back, but when they do come back (and I think many will; not cancelling the season feels like a victory in itself) they will do so city by city, rather than nationally all at once. Kings fans want to see their banner raised. Nashville fans want to see the Predators’ steady rise to awesomeness amount to something. Rangers fans want to know that last season was not a fluke. In this sense, hockey will be taking on the model of minor league sports. The regional popularity of the Tacoma Rainiers and Albuquerque Isotopes far outweighs national interest in Pacific Coast League baseball.

Minor league does not have to be a slur. It can simply mean a different model. For national fans, or fans like me who don’t live in NHL cities, this might mean that when the NHL comes back, it feels somehow less broadly substantial. The NBC Sports Network remains small-time, and the rushed schedule of the post-lockout season will feel awkward and forced. Hockey will probably remain absent from the greater national sports dialogue, and you know what? That’s okay. Those of us who want to can still watch the games, can still read about it. Even a diminished NHL can still add a measure of equilibrium in the sporting universe (one potentially positive consequence: I stop spending so much time looking at baseball trade rumors). For the NHL to be sustainable, and to eventually begin to grow again, the league must first make itself small. Hockey depends on it.


Share |

Comments

I am hoping the same best effort from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing skills has inspired me. voyance-amour-eternel.com

I like this post,And I figure that they having a great time to peruse this post,they might take a decent site to make an information,thanks for sharing it to me. machine a laver

Thank you very much for this useful article. I like it. Dewa Poker Online

This sort of message continually rousing and I want to peruse quality substance, so cheerful to discover great spot to numerous here in the post, the composition is simply extraordinary, a debt of gratitude is in order for the post. Auto Dealer Reinsurance

Hi! Thanks for the great information you havr provided! You have touched on crucuial points! rajajudiqq

Nice Informative Blog having nice sharing.. WappBulk Contacts Filter

Absolutely fantastic posting! Lots of useful information and inspiration, both of which we all need!Relay appreciate your work. zemin kaplama

Thank you very much for this useful article. I like it. Pineapple Express

I love the way you write and share your niche! Very interesting and different! Keep it coming! voyance telephone

This is an extraordinary motivating article.I am basically satisfied with your great work.You put truly exceptionally accommodating data... Friv 4

You there, this is really good post here. Thanks for taking the time to post such valuable information. Quality content is what always gets the visitors coming. Vegan Shoes

I love this blog!! The flash up the top is awesome!! https://uacontracting.com/

I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post. IObit Driver Booster Pro Crack

I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post. essay writing company

You there, this is really good post here. Thanks for taking the time to post such valuable information. Quality content is what always gets the visitors coming. best essay writing services

I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post. essay writing company

Yes i am totally agreed with this article and i just want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to be reading your blog more. You made a good point but I can't help but wonder, what about the other side? !!!!!!Thanks fast essay writing service

Yes i am totally agreed with this article and i just want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to be reading your blog more. You made a good point but I can't help but wonder, what about the other side? !!!!!!Thanks fast essay writing service

wow this saintly however ,I love your enter plus nice pics might be part personss negative love being defrent mind total poeple , Minibus transfers Cholsey

Excellent read, Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work. Taxi Transfers Reading

I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post. star wars hoodies

You there, this is really good post here. Thanks for taking the time to post such valuable information. Quality content is what always gets the visitors coming. Ninja Turtles Legends

You there, this is really good post here. Thanks for taking the time to post such valuable information. Quality content is what always gets the visitors coming. blogging tutorial

You there, this is really good post here. Thanks for taking the time to post such valuable information. Quality content is what always gets the visitors coming. Ralph Lauren

You there, this is really good post here. Thanks for taking the time to post such valuable information. Quality content is what always gets the visitors coming. Billionaire Boys Club

You there, this is really good post here. Thanks for taking the time to post such valuable information. Quality content is what always gets the visitors coming. Off White Clothing

Yes i am totally agreed with this article and i just want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to be reading your blog more. You made a good point but I can't help but wonder, what about the other side? !!!!!!Thanks cryptocurrency coupon code

You there, this is really good post here. Thanks for taking the time to post such valuable information. Quality content is what always gets the visitors coming. Stone Island

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. ESCORT FORUM

I admire this article for the well-researched content and excellent wording. I got so involved in this material that I couldn’t stop reading. I am impressed with your work and skill. Thank you so much. Designer Clothes

Wow, cool post. I'd like to write like this too - taking time and real hard work to make a great article... but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though. Emergency Locksmith

Wow, cool post. I'd like to write like this too - taking time and real hard work to make a great article... but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though. Kalorimetre

Great job for publishing such a beneficial web site. Your web log isn’t only useful but it is additionally really creative too. cloud compute power

Very informative post! There is a lot of information here that can help any business get started with a successful social networking campaign. Fracap Boots

We have sell some products of different custom boxes.it is very useful and very low price please visits this site thanks and please share this post with your friends. alquiler carros medellin

I wrote about a similar issue, I give you the link to my site. devotion definition

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. ΚΑΤΑΣΚΕΥΗ ESHOP WOOCOMMERCE

Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work. amarres de amor

Hello I am so delighted I located your blog, I really located you by mistake, while I was watching on google for something else, Anyways I am here now and could just like to say thank for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining website. Please do keep up the great work. tas wanita

Yes i am totally agreed with this article and i just want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to be reading your blog more. You made a good point but I can't help but wonder, what about the other side? !!!!!!Thanks Valentine Day Poems

Wow! Such an amazing and helpful post this is. I really really love it. It's so good and so awesome. I am just amazed. I hope that you continue to do your work like this in the future also site

A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. jobs in india

I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post. essay writing agency

I was reading some of your content on this website and I conceive this internet site is really informative ! Keep on putting up. happy republic day 2018

Great content material and great layout. Your website deserves all of the positive feedback it’s been getting. you can check here

You make so many great points here that I read your article a couple of times. Your views are in accordance with my own for the most part. This is great content for your readers. Dsquared2

Yes i am totally agreed with this article and i just want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to be reading your blog more. You made a good point but I can't help but wonder, what about the other side? !!!!!!Thanks B confident produk

Wow! Such an amazing and helpful post this is. I really really love it. It's so good and so awesome. I am just amazed. I hope that you continue to do your work like this in the future also kaos pria murah

I was surfing the Internet for information and came across your blog. I am impressed by the information you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Udemy Free Online Courses certificate download video tutorial App Android

The website is looking bit flashy and it catches the visitors eyes. Design is pretty simple and a good user friendly interface. Webdesign Frankfurt