Many Americans like baseball. This cannot be because it is an exciting sport to watch, because it is not. It is slow-paced, even in the rare event of an exciting play, the play itself might last all of 45 seconds, followed by 5 minutes of no action, then a return to the dull routine. teams can go hours without any offensive activity, and only the most routine and basic defensive activity. Not even close to the excitement of our beloved hockey. yet baseball is the national passtime, and hockey is that often-mocked "violent" game from up north where its cold. A major reason for this, I beleive, is statistics.
Baseball is a game of statistics. you can interpret the entire game based on statistics. How skilled is a certain player, offensively? look at his stats. A baseball player, in general, is useless if he cannot make contact with the ball. So, look at the batting average, that will give you a pretty close idea of his skill. Is a pitcher effective on defense? look at his strikeouts, look at his ERA. Baseball is filled with countless statistics that Americans love to keep track of. These statistics are what keep Americans interested.
Hockey, on the other hand, is a game that CANNOT be interpreted entirely through statistics. It always makes me mad when people do. A forward is not just the number of goals he puts up, nor the number of points. He can protect the puck in the corners, he can set up plays, he can screen the goalie, he can pressure outlet passes to force turnovers. And then he can do the little things that don't come out in statistics. He can win the race to wash out the icing. He can backcheck well, he can be defensively responsible. Yashin was not just 50 points last season. Statistics would say he was 50 points, decent, but he was 50 points, no hustle, reluctance to finish checks, and incredibly weak in his defensive zone. A good defenseman can have a bad +/-, and a defensive defenseman will certainly have bad offensive stats. 3rd lines generally do not create a lot of points, but they provide energy, draw penalties, annoy the other team. These things cannot be analyzed purely by statistics.
Hockey is NOT a sport of statistics. Americans are obsessed with statistics. They like having a defined point of skill. "this player is good, he hits the ball 329 times every 1000 at bats". This cannot be done for hockey. A player's skill is so much more than just his points, so an arbitrary marking cannot be defined for "good." Also because of this, each person's assessment of any given player is subjective and individual. This is what keeps our sport more interesting and complicated than baseball, and is also why viewership is always low.