Even those who don't follow baseball know who the New York Yankees are. And these fans and potential fans know what the Yankees are about - winning. We recall that earlier in the past season the Yankees were faltering. Some pundits were predicting that, for the first time since time immemorial, the Yanks would not make it to the post season. But, they did.
And, win or lose, the Yankees are broadcast nationally more than any other MLB team. In season or out, hardly a day goes by without some type of national media coverage of the Yankees. Love 'em or hate 'em, MLB knows that even the casual baseball fan likes to identify with and watch a consistent winner.
And hows does the NHL promote its perennial winners? Promote?
At the risk of sounding like a homer, and with a view to the talent on other teams, my anecdotal conclusion is that such promotion is abysmal. Today, on the little weekly segment ESPN gives to Barry Melrose it was stated that anywhere in the country most people know the Red Wings are the current top team in hockey. And Melrose further stated the Wings were the dominant team.
Dominant is the correct terminology. The Wings have gone to the playoffs a record 16 consecutive times. That's more than the Yankees. But unless within viewing distance of FSN-Detroit, or equipped with the expensive premium cable or satellite packages, one would otherwise be hard-pressed to see the winning Wings in other broadcasts nationwide.
Last night the Wings played the Kings. Yes, the Kings are struggling right now, but they have a good goalie and some top offensive talent. And apparently, some other folks besides those in the Detroit area (don't know about LA broadcasts) wanted to see this game but could not. The Detroit Free Press online edition had some interesting comments from fans in Nebraska, Arizona, and Louisiana. Each stated they wanted to watch the Wings last night but could not, for various reasons. Among them:
*One said that although he had CenterIce, the Wings/Kings game was blacked out in their area.
*Another stated that the NHL network was an additional premium and not readily available on their cable network.
*Yet another thought about going to watch in the local pub but was informed that the NHL network would not be available to commercial outlets for another year.
I can't vouch for the veracity of any of these statements. Nor am I privy to all the clauses and sub-clauses of various broadcast contracts with the NHL. But, I do know that each of these hockey fans in far-flung locations throughout the United States wanted to watch the Wings play hockey last night and could not.
Indeed, it is clear that if the NHL is not going to more aggressively promote top TEAMS and make it EASY for interested fans to find a winner, then all the continual promotion of star INDIVIDUALS (on teams that may or may not make the playoffs) is a colossal waste of time and money and significantly contributes to a further erosion of the fan base.