How Can the NHL Attract More Viewers and Fans?
Hockey has long dwindled as one of the least popular “big” sports in the United States. There has seemingly always been football, baseball and basketball, with NASCAR becoming one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Even soccer, the worlds most popular sport but one out the outside looking in throughout much of the United States, has made major inroads in U.S. pop culture. So why has NHL hockey floundered and lingered behind? The majority of it is the sport’s own doing. It isn’t that the sport isn’t exciting or aggressive enough. The league and players themselves have had more of a hand in its lack of popularity than anything else. Understanding what caused the sport to become less popular is essential as it indicates what could be done to help improve hockey popularity.
So Where Did it All Go Wrong?
Hockey’s major blunder came early on in the world of live broadcast television. During the late 50s and early 60s, live broadcast television became more and more popular. Covering live sports was not terribly expensive compared to paying actors and directors to produce produced TV content. Due to this, the major networks CBS, NBC and ABC started to look at sports to broadcast. Baseball always had a leg up on the other sports due to its historical connection with the United States, so other sports had to fight to receive more air time. The NHL was approached to have league games broadcast weekly from coast to coast early on, but the league and the players did not think they were paid enough money for it, so the NHL turned down the deal. The television networks turned to the next option, football, and the NFL, a newer league at the time, agreed to the terms. So, the NHL remained off of major television broadcasts for years while the other sports built in popularity due to being some of the few live sporting events on TV. Now, the NFL is the most popular sports league in the United States
Flash forward several years down the road, and the NHL has had more public strikes and cancelled seasons than all other sporting leagues combined. Major League Baseball lost one season due to player strikes and the NBA and NFL both had slightly abbreviated seasons. However, the NHL has missed multiple seasons due to players wanting more and managers wanting more. This greed has made it next to impossible for more casual fans to follow the sport.
How to Fix it
Truthfully, there is no quick fix. Baseball, football and basketball became the popular sports they are today due to generations of sports fans watching the content on TV. For the NHL to improve, it needs to first avoid any season boycotts for a long time. It can’t afford any more. Second, in order to increase those on bet on hockey and betting on the NHL in general, the league needs to take a pay cut from major TV providers so it can be picked up on major networks. If sports are on television, people will watch. Until that happens, NHL betting and the development of new fans is just not going to happen.