If you’re anything like me (and you’re reading a hockey blog, so we have that in common), you don’t care for basketball. I’ve already done a whole column on why hockey is better than football, so I’ll skip why hockey is better than basketball for now.
What does interest me when it comes to basketball is the ever-so-real possibility that there won’t be basketball this year. Reports in the news today state that very thing. Soon, the only pro sport to watch on any day of the week besides Sunday may be hockey. This presents an incredible opportunity for the NHL to increase awareness of the least popular of the so-called “four major professional sports.”
Keep reading for why you as a hockey fan should be rooting for a season-long basketball lockout.
The NHL suffered through its own devastating lockout just a few years ago. A few positives did come out of that–team parity, a crackdown on the trap, etc. but everyone should agree that the league lost fans that have yet to return.
One reason some fans may have not returned is because they turned to basketball. While fans continue to fill arenas in St. Louis, Minnesota and Chicago, teams in Phoenix and Atlanta suffered the most from the lockout and fans never returned-and never will in Atlanta. This is our chance to get those people back. The NHL should initiate massive marketing campaigns in every city that has both sports. Get creative. Offer discounts to NBA season ticket holders, hire the NBA mascot to make appearances wearing a hockey sweater, whatever*.
The NHL has already made huge advances in increasing awareness of the league and profited nicely from the television deals with NHL and Versus. Perhaps ESPN will use some of the air-time they usually devote to basketball and show a few more hockey highlights.
When you do see hockey highlights on the sports shows, what names do you hear? Yes, Crosby and Ovechkin. While these are definitely two of the stars of the league, they aren’t the only ones. I’d love to see more stories on Martin St. Louis, Ryan Miller, Patrick Kane, even reluctantly, a member of the Dead Wings.
Hockey needs to grab this opportunity to get the attention of the casual sports fan with nothing to do on a week night. If Commissioner Bettman can do that, he will make big strides in growing this fantastic sport in the U.S.
You can help. If you have a basketball-loving friend who’s never seen hockey, take him to a game or share nachos and beer in front of the TV and explain icing and offsides. And why sports that don’t play defense suck.
* I have other ideas and am available for consulting at very reasonable rates. Message me on Twitter @EvanP_Hockey to discuss.