Why the NHL Needs ESPN and a Shorter Regular Season

Patrick QuarryContributor IJune 3, 2009

DETROIT - MAY 30:  Gary Bettman speaks during a press conference prior to the start of Game 1 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings at the Renaissance Center on May 30, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Stanley Cup Finals reached 1.2 million households last weekend. The NBA Western Conference Finals reached 6.2 million households. I believe there are three reasons to this. Americans have yet to fully embrace ice hockey, many Americans don't even know what Versus is, and the NBA is simply more popular in America.

The first reason might never change. If you change the last two the first one may come true in a world American hockey fans call heaven. For the some of the greatest and most passionate fans in America, here is a taste of what I would call purgatory for the NHL. Gary Bettman, if you're reading, please listen.

The NHL garnered its highest fan support in the pre-lockout era. The NHL would like to come back to this success. Because of the recent economic situation, average blue-collar guys who care about supporting their team, hassling star players on rival teams, and living and dying with one trade just can't afford to attend an NHL game.

The biggest difference between the NHL and the NFL is the big four (ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX) have wars to televise the NFL. FOX outbid CBS for the NFC rights 15 years ago and launched FOX from struggling TV network to the biggest current broadcaster of relevant American sporting events.

The other big difference is that the NHL has to jack up their gate-revenue to make up for its lackluster deal with NBC. If Gary Bettman received a brain transplant he just might consider moving the NHL back to ABC. ABC has one thing neither of the other three networks have. ESPN.

And from 6 am to 10 am this show is watched more than any other show by the 18-49 male demographic, which is also the biggest demographic of the population that watches sports.

And the answer is, "What is SportsCenter, Alex." "Correct."

ESPN over hypes the NBA so much it's annoying to the point of muting the TV. Now I'm no TV executive but when was the last time you watched anything on ESPN2 on purpose. Just think, the NHL could replace "Kobe: Doin' Work" on the nights the NBA isn't on.

ESPN commercials tell you what to watch that night, so now ordinary folk could be manipulated into watching the NHL on purpose, rather than stumbling upon it on a station called OLN—I mean Versus.

The only problem is that ESPN has already over hyped Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and other NBA players. Nothing against the NBA, but I think hockey is a much better sport than basketball. LeBron James was scored upon while fixing his armband.

Braydon Coburn (Flyers defenseman) broke his nose and had a couple of teeth knocked out, all because he didn't want a piece of rubber to reach another player, who by the way is far more protected than he is.

Back to my point, the NHL will always fall short to the NBA in America if they have their championships head-to-head. If the season was shortened to let's say 60-65 games, we could have the Stanley Cup Finals in mid April.

NOTHING that important (sorry NFL Draft nuts) is going on at that time anyway. There are probably more problems which would come along the way and I just hope Gary Bettman gets a clue or they just fire him. The latter probably being the only way the NHL starts to head on the right track.

If my dream comes true, I promise I will personally write a letter to ABC NOT to include Pierre McGuire as part of their broadcast team.