To some, that phrase alone may seem like an insult, but I assure you it is not. I’ll admit it, I’m not a huge NHL fan, but I respect the sport and still watch in here and there. That said, there’s no denying that when it comes to the four major sports leagues, the NHL is distant fourth in terms of exposure.
Yet, on Sunday night, when there was the Pro Bowl, NBA basketball and college basketball on TV, I found myself watching the NHL All Star game.
Anybody who knows me probably finds that pretty hard to believe, but it’s true. As an owner of NBA League Pass and a huge college basketball fan, it’s crazy to think I put both of those on the back burner in favor of watching hockey.
What the NHL has done with the All-Star game is awesome, and I think it’s going to help hockey in the long run.
Essentially, what the NHL now has in place of one “All-Star Game” is a four-team tournament. The NHL has four separate divisions, and each division has a separate All-Star team. These four teams are put into a bracket for three-on-three 20-minute games. If it’s tied after regulation, the match-up is decided by a shootout.
While no game went to a shootout this year, I still love the way they have it set up. And when I tuned in, I wasn’t disappointed.
The switch, not only in the All-Star game, but for overtime hockey as well, to three-on-three hockey was one of the best decisions the NHL has made. The open space and fast-paced play in unbelievably exciting, and there isn’t much that compares in sports in terms of consistent excitement.
The NHL deserves credit for making that change. Similar to the way the NHL decided that there would no longer be ties, and instead would have games decided by shootout, the NHL has continually made changes that have increased the appeal of their product.
These changes are all important and have helped the league in terms of fandom, bringing in people such as myself who didn’t have much interest in hockey at all. But the key to hockey competing with the likes of the NFL and NBA is landing a legitimate TV deal.
Currently, the NHL is locked into a deal with NBC in which the biggest games of their season are routinely on NBCSPORTS, a channel that not everybody has.
Landing a TV deal to get back onto ESPN is the final step for the NHL to increase revenue and get back up to the level they were at before the lockout.
I’m growing more and more interested in the NHL, and I hope it gets more popular. The league has its faults, but it cares about making its product better, and because of that, I think its on its way back.