The New York Rangers are now in a best-of-three series against the New Jersey Devils for the Eastern Conference Championship and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals against either the Los Angeles Kings or the Phoenix Coyotes.
As one of the teams from the NHL's "Original Six" era, the league needs storied franchises in big markets like the Rangers to succeed and attract new fans. New fans like often gravitate towards a team with a long history full of tradition and legends. Playing in the biggest media market on the East Coast doesn't hurt either.
Suddenly, bunches of Empire State-folk are following the Rangers this postseason.
Since taking over as the General Commissioner of the NHL in 1993, Gary Bettman has experimented with expanding into the southern United States and other non-traditional hockey markets. His efforts have worked out in some cities including Raleigh, Tampa Bay, Anaheim and Dallas, whose teams have all won a Stanley Cup. However, despite success by these teams, fair-weather fans are often quick to forget the their respective city's professional hockey team.
Additionally, some southern US franchises like the Atlanta Thrashers failed altogether and the Phoenix Coyotes were a few negotiations away from relocating.
Regardless, the NHL has expanded beyond its traditional boundaries, and more and more young players are coming out of sunny states like California and Texas.
While storied franchises in large markets like the New York Rangers need to compete annually, teams in non-traditional hockey towns need to establish tradition, field a competitive team and remain consistent to attract a bigger fan base and turn into hockey hotbeds.