Stanley Cup Finals True Saviour of the NHL?

Ben HornerCorrespondent IMay 25, 2008

Every time the NHL playoff season turns toward June, the hockey world gears up for the pinnacle of the sport, the Final for Lord Stanley's Cup. 

In recent years, this means that we hear every pundit on radio and TV asking the same question: "Can the Stanley Cup save hockey?" 

This year is no different, with most people saying that Sid the Kid will lift hockey out of the nation's number 6 most popular sport spot, or saying that the return of the Stanley Cup to Hockeytown is great for the league.  The reality is; hockey needs much more than Sid the Kid and a Hockeytown revival. 

The following is my list of the top 3 things hockey really needs to vault it back into the mainstream.

NBA labor stoppage:  As cruel or illwilled as that sounds, the reality is that there are really only two sports running during the winter months after the Super Bowl: hockey and basketball. 

Consider the fact that a fair amount of tickets sold these days are held by corporations and other companies.  If those companies can't get tickets for NBA games to try and woo clients, there is only one other sport left, that being hockey. 

As much as people complain about the media coverage, or lack there of, of hockey, the reality is that hockey fans aren't made by watching TV, they are made by getting people in the seats. 

If nothing else, the money that would result from those ticket sales would help the teams.

High-profile draft pick in big media market:  Can you imagine if Sidney Crosby had gone to the New York Rangers? Or the Los Angeles Kings?  The fact that Crosby has been buried in hockey-mad Pittsburgh has hurt the NHL more than it has helped it. 

Most, if not all of the people in Pittsburgh who would care about a high-profile player were already Penguins supporters, and followers of the team. 

It is not uncommon to hear of people becoming fans of teams because they liked a particular player on that team. 

It would have been an unbelievable boost to the league if people became attracted to Crosby after receiving unbelievable media coverage from New York City or even Los Angeles.

Better media coverage:  Seems obvious, right?  More coverage equals more interest.  Well the fact is; there are still a significant amount of people who think hockey was cancelled after the lockout, and the league disbanded. 

If the league received better press coverage, the number of people who thought hockey was gone would shrink.  This needs to start with getting the NHL Finals back onto network TV.  People need to see hockey to like hockey, and at this point, the league can't be picky about how it is seen.

Of any major sporting event, the Stanley Cup has the lowest Nielsen rating of all of them.

So, as you watch, listen to, or read about the Stanley Cup Finals coverage, and hear all those pundits asking all their questions, remember that when they ask if the Finals can save hockey, the solution is a little more complex than Hockeytown and Sid the Kid.