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 really and truly thrilled to read this marvelous post. You’ve really impressed me today. Reyands Blog

I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. lucky patcher apk

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. Jelqing

Very good points you wrote here..Great stuff...I think you've made some truly interesting points.Keep up the good work. خرید اینترنتی لباس

I have to take a note of this particular website i seriously can easily return underneath caused by a person that you've carried out an outstanding perform. buy facebook likes

The information you have posted is very useful. The sites you have referred was good. Thanks for sharing.. Marketing strategy

This is such a great information for me, because i do an online job thats why i need fast Internet connection, i search how to bost internet speed then ireach at a right place. airsoft BBs

I read your whole article, it's really interesting and helpful thanks for sharing. Headphone for Kids

Yes, great US Military force. Also, in his post you have given a chance to listen about US Military. I really appreciate your work. Thanks for sharing it. a sötét ötven árnyalata online teljes magyarul

This is such a great information for me, because i do an online job thats why i need fast Internet connection, i search how to bost internet speed then ireach at a right place. a sötét ötven árnyalata teljes online magyarul

Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? I'm pleased I discovered it though, ill be checking back soon to find out what additional posts you include. Are really brilliant! Dofollow Blog Comments

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post I would like to read this internet banking usa

Thanks for sharing nice information with us. I like your post and all you share with us is up to date and quite informative, I would like to bookmark the page so I can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. here

Nice post! You have really made your efforts to make this post. Love this mashup

it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. Roofing Colorado Springs

I think your posts are all bringing positiveness and keep going to do the same for us. this site. click here

Thank you very much this article well written, learned a lot, and later continue to monitor, there are some recomasdasdmended Maryland, and its common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchang
elektromos cigaretta

Access your bookmarks from any computer, phone or tablet. Listango works on all modern web browsers… prayers

I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work... News

Great info! I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have. ​Nick

If you are looking for Affordable transportation service, then you have reached at the right spot. We are one of the best Affordable transportation providing company. MSP Airport Car Service

Thank you so very much buddies! I like your all best ever posts daily here. My hat is off to you on your special working. Reagents

I am trying to decide on a career move and this has helped me with one aspect. richesse-et-finance

I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article. ​financement participatif

Thankfulness to my dad who informed me about this blog, this website is really amazing. online film magyarul

money and power. This is a new reality we must calibrate ourselves to. (We being hockey fans; for everybody else nothing much changes). loftplan designs

I loved reading your post from the beginning till end of your story. Keep the good work and more power!! Tow Colorado Springs

I am trying to decide on a career move and this has helped me with one aspect. Bio BB

This is such a great information for me, because i do an online job thats why i need fast Internet connection, i search how to bost internet speed then ireach at a right place. teljes online film

Mmm.. good to be here in your article or post, whatever, I think I should also work hard for my own website like I see some good and updated working in your site. https://www.usmoversdirectory.com

This is such a great information for me, because i do an online job thats why i need fast Internet connection, i search how to bost internet speed then ireach at a right place. apps

A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work!edina taxi cab

Anticipating another awesome article. Good fortunes to the creator! All the best! Join Indian Army

Thanks for sharing nice information with us. i like your post and all you share with us is uptodate and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. Produtos Neutrogena

I discovered your site ideal for me. It consists of wonderful and useful posts. I've read many of them and also got so much from them. In my experience, you do the truly amazing. http://www.doctorgardening.com

I view you got truly very functional matters, i determination be always checking your blog wounded. Clash Royale Cheats 2017

Thankfulness to my dad who informed me about this blog, this website is really amazing. carte grise

I hope that other readers will also experience how I feel after reading your article. composer sa musique

You fully match our expectations and the selection of our data. free business listing sites in india 2017

Initial You got a awesome blog. I determination be involved in more uniform minutes. I view you got truly very functional matters, i determination be always checking your blog wounded. rent a car

I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article. Майнкрафт онлайн

This is such a great information for me, because i do an online job thats why i need fast Internet connection, i search how to bost internet speed then ireach at a right place. Eletricista SP

This is a wonderful article, Given so much info in it, These type of articles keeps the users interest in the website, and keep on sharing more. desentupidora

This is a new reality we must calibrate ourselves to. (We being hockey fans; for everybody else nothing much changes) Loftplan

Always so interesting to visit your site.What a great info, thank you for sharing. Juegos Minecraft Gratis

You can highlight it's cerebrum boggling. Your online diary examination/visit will build up your conversions. http://doctorgardening.com

Incredible posting this is from you. I am really and truly thrilled to read this marvelous post. You’ve really impressed me today. I hope you’ll continue to do so ! livre personnalisé prénom Livre personnalisé où l'enfant devient le héro de l'histoire. Pour une fille ou un garçon, dès 4 ans.
Personnalisation possible sur la photo, le prénom, l'ge, la ville, les amis...

This is one of the most important blogs that I have seen, keep it up!
shopping

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. web traffic

Mmm.. good to be here in your article or post, whatever, I think I should also work hard for my own website like I see some good and updated working in your site. Gambir emas performance gel