Stanley Cup Finals: Why the NHL Needs the LA Kings & NY Rangers in the Finals
There are 1.6 seconds left on the clock as Craig MacTavish comes to take the final faceoff of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final.
Hockey is king in the city that never sleeps.
MacTavish wins the draw and the Rangers, along with a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden and millions of viewers watching on their televisions at home, celebrate their first Stanley Cup since 1940.
Flash forward to this year where New York is staring down the same opportunity. However they must first get by a very strong New Jersey Devils team which is anything but a guarantee.
If both squads can overcome their respective opponents and meet in the Stanley Cup Final the NHL, its fans and sports fans alike will be provided with the chance to watch arguably America's two most recognizable cities going head-to-head.
The NHL needs a marquee matchup such as this to swiftly change this unfortunate trend.
Though viewership and fan loyalty has begun to gain back the momentum it had prior to the 2004-2005 lockout, a Cup Final pitting the Kings against the Rangers would do an enormous amount in terms of keeping NHL fans happy, entertaining sports fans in general and converting the average American television viewer into an occasional (if not full-fledged) hockey fan.
How much of a positive impact would a Los Angeles vs. New York series have on the NHL's popularity in America?
This potential series has such power for several reasons.
Let us first begin by breaking down the marquee nature of both cities involved.
Though the NHL has had a plethora of populous and recognizable American cities involved in the final (Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit and Pittsburgh) it is reasonable for one to argue that these are cities in which hockey is the number one or number two most popular sport.
Detroit is Hockeytown, Philadelphia has some of the most ravenous fans in sports, and Pittsburgh is quickly becoming a hockey city with the marketability that comes with having the sport’s most recognizable figure—Sidney Crosby.
However when you look at New York and Los Angeles it's tough to say that hockey takes precedent.
Los Angeles has the Lakers and the Clippers in the playoffs and the Dodgers have become very competitive. The Rangers have to compete with the Yankees, the Mets, the Knicks and both the Giants and the Jets.
A Stanley Cup Final including the Rangers and the Kings gives the NHL the opportunity to tower over all the other sports leagues that occupy the two cities. At least for a couple weeks.
Another factor concerning these cities is simply their location. With New York as the mecca of the east coast and Los Angeles the west, this Final allows for sports fans coast-to-coast to remain engaged.
This differs from finals in the past such as Chicago versus Philadelphia that only pertained immediately to the northeastern and northwestern portions of the U.S.
Also the large-market nature of the areas provide essentially the opposite atmosphere than a New Jersey versus Phoenix final would.
Let’s also not forget about the celebrity power each city boasts. This element of the matchup may seem to be just a simple novelty to the everyday NHL fan, however to the average television viewer this brings a certain interest usually unseen in hockey.
Seeing celebs such as Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Kate Upton and Jude Law will attract people who may only view hockey highlights while flipping through the channels.
Now let's get to the hockey itself. The teams would provide viewers with amazing games to watch.
Both squads boast tremendous net minders.
Jonathan Quick of the Kings and Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers are considered by many to be the top two goaltenders in the league and a meeting of the two All-Stars in the Cup Final would be monumental.
A goaltending matchup such as this will generate tremendously tense games. In turn, tense games lead to multiple overtime games, which always give way to increased viewership and an abundance of national sports news coverage.
While it is still yet to be guaranteed, a Stanley Cup Final of the New York Rangers against the Los Angeles Kings is a marriage made in hockey heaven. And while it may not be openly stated by anyone associated with the league you can bet the NHL is hoping for these two juggernauts to be playing head-to-head come early June.
If all plays out as many suspect and hope for then the NHL could have their most influential Cup Final in several years.
Not only does the series have the potential to be a classic but also one that changes the perception and popularity of the NHL in the United States for years to come.
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