I posted this as a little reply in Tim Panaccio's "On Heidi, Barbaro and the Sabres-Rangers" but my little reply kept growing until I felt that I should post it as a blog and see if I could spark some discussion.
Canadian fan here with some thoughts.
I can't say that I disagree with anything Tim wrote about attracting new fans to the sport. It was a pretty entertaining OT.
However, my question is, why, as NHL fans, are we always so concerned with attracting others to the sports? Are the Baseball, Basketball, Football, or Nascar fans worried about attracting new fans to the sport? As a small market fan who watched Gretzky get sold and countless players leave Edmonton for more money in other markets, I am fully aware that the NHL is a business. I understand that the more people who watch the NHL the better business is, but why as a fan should I care howgood business is? I don’t care if more people buy Toyotas, drink Coke, or wear Nikes, why should I care if more people watch the NHL or not?
In fact, as a fan of the Oilers, or any small market team for that matter, isn’t it worse for me if the sport starts to attract new fans? If the NHL attracts new fans and revenue goes up, it will mean that the salary cap will go up too. Right now the team I cheer for doesn’t spend to the cap max, so how does increasing popularity, revenues and the cap help me? It doesn’t…
Sure, if the NHL attracts more fans you would see more games on national TV and some additional coverage on ESPN. However, I have to ask, if (big if) hockey was popular, and you took the hour of Sportcenter (60min), subtracted commercials (45 min), and then divided the remaining time between Baseball, Basketball, Football, College sports, Nascar, and Golf how much time would ESPN have to dedicate to hockey? 5 minutes? 3 minutes? Then divide that by the 30 teams in the NHL and that’s the amount of hockey coverage your team would get…
Is that really worth the possible down side? The side where the NHL has a cap that’s significantly higher than the self imposed caps that the small market teams would have? Sure their would be a cap, but it would be the old NHL all over again where the small market teams are the farm systems of the larger market teams.
I’m sorry but it hardly seems worth it to me. Especially in now when a hockey fan can order the NHL channel, watch highlights on youtube, and hockey forums where fans can waste valuable time at work writing theses on the benefits and downside of the NHL increasing its fan base.
Anyway, to sum up I’m a hockey fan. I liked the sport when there were 21 teams; I like it now with 30 teams. I’ll like it if there were 40 teams or only 9 (see CFL). My love for the sport doesn’t need the affirmation of the mainstream American media for me to enjoy it… Games like yesterdays Sabres Rangers game are entertaining enough.