NHL Playoffs 2012 : 3 Reasons Hockey Is Popular Again in the US

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NHL Playoffs 2012 : 3 Reasons Hockey Is Popular Again in the US
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
The 2012 NHL Playoffs has seen a resurgence in popularity this season

The 2012 NHL Playoff ratings are going up faster than an official’s arm when somebody touches Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Ratings from the first two days of the 2012 NHL Playoffs on the NBC Sports Network rose 22% from last year’s games and they are expected to continue to skyrocket.

It seems like just yesterday that the National Hockey League was taken about as serious as a bank robber with a water pistol.

The league was locked out for the entirety of the 2004-2005 season, and it hardly seemed like anyone took notice. However, the league emerged from the dormant year with drastic improvements that increased fan interest and changed the style of play.

In the season following the lockout, the NHL set a record for attendance with a 1.2% increase over the previous mark from the 2001-02 season.

Multiple rule changes were implemented to speed up the pace of the game, add scoring opportunities and make watching hockey an overall more enjoyable experience, evident in the revival of this year's 2012 NHL Playoffs.


More Power Plays = More Goals

One of the most radical modifications to the league was the revamping of penalties.

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In an effort to generate more offense, the NHL employed a zero tolerance policy for hooking, tripping, slashing, cross-checking and interference. Although these were already considered penalties, it is now called more frequently, as players who use their stick or their free hand to slow an opponent are disciplined with two minutes in the sin bin.

This subtle change in ruling has sternly restricted the defense and has led to more scoring opportunities through an increase in power plays and odd-man rushes.

In the season prior to the lockout, NHL teams averaged 2.57 goals and 4.24 power play opportunities per game. These numbers increased sharply in the post-lockout season, with teams averaging 3.08 goals and 5.85 power play opportunities per contest.


The Death of the Two-Line Pass

It seems almost absurd to think that a mere seven seasons ago, the NHL had a two-line pass restriction.

Many of the game’s most impressive outlet passes would have been a violation under the league’s old rules. Restricting a pass from the defensive zone to the opposing blue line, a mere 50 feet, is equivalent to confining a quarterback to only passing the ball a maximum of 30 yards.

Doing away with this useless statute has led to more continuity and a more spread out offensive approach.

Top 10 NHL Shootout Goals


Shootouts : The Most Exciting Tiebreaker In Sports


I hate ties.

Nothing is more frustrating than spending money on a ticket, devoting a three-hour block to watching a hard-fought battle by both teams and leaving the rink without a determined winner.

Not to mention the mundane conservative style of play that we saw in the five-minute sudden death period. With a tie worth one point in the standings and an overtime loss worth zero, teams who wanted to ensure a point would take a defense-first approach making overtime less exciting than a Wizards/Bobcats preseason game.

A game tied after regulation play is now decided in the shootout which, although controversial, now concludes each and every match with a winner.   

Since the league has implemented shootouts, we have seen some sensational finishes to games with hockey’s most skilled scorers getting opportunities to show off their finest dangles.

But most importantly, no more ties.

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