Over the last few years, hockey has barely been recognized as a professional sport. It seems that the National Hockey League lost much of its prestige as a result of the 310-day lockout in 2004. During the lockout, many NHL followers abandoned their professional hockey franchise and never came back. By the time the lockout was over, they had forgotten all about the game on ice.
But finally, three years after the end of the lockout, the NHL and the sport of hockey are gaining some much deserved recognition. With much help from NBC, old fans everywhere are beginning to realize what it was they enjoyed about hockey. NBC’s “Quest for the Cup” campaign probably accounted for most -if not all- of the positive publicity that the NHL has received in years.
NBC’s broadcasts have also helped attract many new fans. Thanks to this year’s Winter Classic, many newcomers were able to witness hockey at its best. The hockey fan base is rapidly expanding to include men, women, and children of all ages and sizes. Who wouldn’t enjoy all of the fights, goals, and tricks that hockey has to offer during a blizzard in the great outdoors of Buffalo?
More recently, other networks have begun to notice the increasing value of the professional hockey franchise as well. The MSGHD channel chose to carry the New York Rangers away game against the Philadelphia Flyers over a New York Knicks home game on March 21. The MSG channel has finally begun to appreciate all of the spectators that the Rangers provide for the network—or they have finally realized how worthless the NBA and the New York Knicks truly are.
Even hockey’s negative media exposure is attracting new enthusiasts. While many criticize the fact that the NHL appears to condone violence, others are embracing it. Hockey has always been known for being the bad-ass of all professional sports. Hockey fights only add to the adrenaline rush that the exciting, fast-paced game already provides. And what could be more exciting than a player getting their throat cut by a skate?
Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely not a good thing that today’s society was so captivated by Richard Zednik’s unfortunate neck injury, but it was such a freak accident that no one could help but become both shocked by the incident itself and fascinated by the fact that it doesn’t happen more often. The current Florida Panther’s brush with death further proved the thrill of watching and playing such a dangerous game. Maybe if pro-golfers were putting their life on the line every time they stepped onto the green, golf would have a much larger following.
In retrospect, I’d have to say that all steps taken by the NHL lately have been extremely beneficial. While most Yankee fans may disagree, I feel that having a future Winter Classic played at Yankee Stadium will be extremely advantageous to the league and to the game of hockey as a whole. It’s about time that professional hockey has gained some positive recognition.
A word of advice for any hockey-bashing critics out there: Don’t knock the hock until you try watching a game for yourself—especially now that it's playoff time.
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