Heard on Episode 3.41 of AFITC
For the first time since the lockout three seasons ago, the NHL is facing another summer of transition. But unlike the dark abyss the league stared into as the game struggled to regain even the slightest foothold of interest in the United States following a return to action, this summer’s period of transition is indeed a much more positive one.
The television ratings for the Stanley Cup Finals in the US, while not staggering, were a considerable improvement over a year ago, returning close to pre-lockout levels. This slight increase offers hope that perhaps hockey is slowing making its way onto the radar screen.
The best way for the NHL to continue this upward trend in American interest is to find a marketable superstar who becomes a recognizable name not only to hockey fans but as a cultural icon, somebody who makes hockey cool to watch, to play, and to follow.
Alexander Ovechkin is quickly becoming that kind of superstar. He has single handedly turned Washington DC back into a hockey town since coming into the league and is easily the most popular athlete in the city in any sport.
Ovechkin loves the spotlight, never tires of talking about the game, possesses a certain endearing quality when he speaks and plays the game with the passion of a child. At times, I start to wonder if he would play for free if necessary.
Sidney Crosby is looked at by many as this marketable force, but unlike the passionate, spontaneous and carefree Ovechkin, Crosby is almost robotic in his approach to all business off the ice, lacking that compelling quality that makes Ovechkin stand out and forces viewers to take notice.
For the NHL, having players stand out (in a good way) is exactly what they want. Alex Ovechkin draws interest to the NHL for all the right reasons. But hey, all that was just rigmarole.