10 Reasons the Future Is Bright for the NHL With or Without Gary Bettman
These are much better times for Gary Bettman.
Nearly six weeks after the end of the lockout, the memories of those awful days in October, November and December are starting to fade.
The NHL is getting on with the business of hockey.
Bettman remains the commissioner of the sport and he apparently is going to stay on the job for the immediate future. He may have some battles on his hands, but he has apparently survived the lockout. Perhaps he's tired of the constant criticism and will decide to leave or the owners who supported him may change their opinions.
The sport of hockey is an ongoing business once again and the game should soon be in a position to thrive—whether Bettman remains commissioner or not.
Here are 10 reasons the sport has a bright future:
The NHL is probably going to allow its players to fully participate in the Sochi Olympics in 2014 (source: Yahoo.com).
Olympic hockey is the best advertisement for NHL hockey going. The best players from the most prominent hockey-playing nations are almost always NHL players.
More people watch Olympic hockey than NHL hockey on television (source: New York Times). More people are exposed to the sport when they watch the Olympics.
Sports fans who may not have been interested in hockey in the past may become fans after seeing the top players in the game play for Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
Once new fans find the sport in the Olympics, they may decided to stay with it and follow the NHL.
This is a much different category than Olympic hockey, which has excellent promotional value for the NHL.
Regular international competition is excellent for the quality of competition within the NHL itself. When the best international players compete against each other—such as in the World Junior Competiton pictured above—it helps players improve, oftentimes dramatically.
That is good for the NHL when it comes to the quality of play in the league.
Hockey may be the most competitive sport on an international level and that leads to better play within the NHL.
Sidney Crosby is the best player in the game when he is healthy.
He has missed the majority of the last two season with concussion-related problems. Crosby returned for a second time at the end of last season and competed in the playoffs.
However, he is starting to hit his stride again in the 2013 season. He is just one point behind Thomas Vanek as the NHL's leading scorer in the league as of Feb. 17.
Crosby may not be in the category of Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, but he compares with any of the other all-time great players.
When Crosby is thriving, he brings new fans to the game.
Hockey never had a respectable national television contract in the United States until the NHL signed a deal with NBC in 2011.
The NHL signed a 10-year, $2 billion deal with NBC (source: NHL.com), and that helped the sport improve its financial position and increase its status in pro sports world.
The NHL should be able to build off its contract with NBC and the NBC Sports Network in the future.
Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk
It's one thing to have an excellent national television contract; it's quite another to have good announcers who can draw fans in as a result of their warmth and personality.
That's what NBC has done with Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk. Both announcers are extraordinary at their craft, but more importantly they seem to invite listeners in as they go along with their broadcasts.
Emrick and Olczyk are to hockey what Vin Scully is to baseball; class all the way and you are happy to invite them into your family room.
Developing Interest in Non-Traditional Markets
The NHL has tried to develop the game of hockey and give it a chance to thrive in non-traditional areas.
While there have been many struggles, the NHL has developed interest in cities like Dallas, Washington D.C., Miami, Tampa and Anaheim.
While the sport has not always been successful financially in all of these markets, hockey has become a key part of the sports world in these non-traditional cities.
Players who learned the game as youngsters in Texas, Florida and California have been drafted by NHL teams.
Business Model Stronger
The NHL locked its players out this year because it was unhappy with its business model.
Prior to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was reached in January, players received 57 percent of the hockey-related revenues.
The new CBA splits revenues on a 50-50 basis between the owners and players (source: SI.com). That gives owners a much more comfortable business environment and a better chance to make a profit.
The new CBA means that there will be no more labor problems between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association for the foreseeable future.
Instead of having another work stoppage on the horizon, the two sides came to agree on a 10-year deal (source: SI.com).
While either side can choose to opt out after eight years, the 10-year term means any kind of work stoppage prior to the 10-year mark is unlikely.
Steven Stamkos may not have reached Sidney Crosby's level of achievement in the NHL, but he may soon become the preeminent goal scorer in the NHL.
Stamkos scored 60 goals in 2011-12 and he has scored 50 goals or more in two of the last three seasons. The 23-year-old Stamkos has perhaps the best shot in the game and he carries himself like a star.
Stamkos is also devoted to making sure he keeps himself in the best possible shape and he is leading a conditioning revolution in the NHL (source: NBCSports.com).
Hockey Hall of Fame
One of the most enticing aspects of the sport of hockey is its great history.
The history of the NHL is on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
This museum pays homage to the great players, teams and coaches of the past. It is a must for all hockey fans to visit.
It increases a fan's connection and devotion to the game.