Remember The Twilight Zone Episode Where...
...the NHL becomes a sports super-power?
(this first paragraph is intended to be read in the legendary voice of Rod Serling)
The year is 2011. Imagine, if you will, a world where professional hockey is the most watched and talked about sport...in the United States. A bizarre, dystopian future where a work stoppage in the NFL and a post-World Series hangover caused average Joes from New York to Los Angeles to chat about things like save percentages and average ice time around the water cooler. A world where ESPN actually devotes time to real analysis of the game and not just shoddy lip service. A world where people actually know the name of the starting goaltender for the Nashville Predators. I know this may shock you but it actually happened in...The Twilight Zone.
A strange thought occurred to me today. Just a thought. Nothing more. But if the NFL and the NFLPA don't get their shit straight, the NHL is poised for a huge popularity coup in 2011. If they can properly manage the recent surge of interest in the league, Gary Bettman and company could stand to finally legitimize the sport of hockey to an American audience and stake their claim as one of the "majors". As a fan of hockey above pretty much everything else, I know my opinion on this matter is a bit biased. But the ratings don't lie. Sunday's gold medal match of the Winter Olympics between the USA and Canada drew better ratings than any World Series game since 2004. That's no small feat in anybody's book. So bare with me as I outline the NHL's rise to power in 2011.
The whole thing begins and ends with the NFL. I hate to say it but if there is a season in 2011, it will severely hurt the chances of any of this actually happening. But NFLPA president Kevin Mawae and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith seem to be hanging tough on this whole CBA situation and they are very serious about the work stoppage. And judging by the fact that the two sides could not come to an agreement by this year's Pro Bowl, resulting in an uncapped 2010 season, anything is possible. I think most sports fans realize that this whole thing is ridiculous. If this petty battle between millionaires and billionaires were to completely nix an entire season of NFL play, the fans could very well turn their backs on the league in search of something more entertaining. The NHL would be wise to jump on this opportunity.
So now we flash forward. Its the beginning of October. The NFL has basically cancelled its season to deal with a bunch of cranky millionaires with brain injuries and their octogenarian, white-bread owner counterparts. Major League Baseball has just concluded it's season by crowning either the Yankees or the Red Sox as World Series Champions *yawn*. The NBA season won't start for a few weeks and their ratings haven't been the same since Jordan retired. But on the bright side, Versus is televising a game between the St. Louis Blues and the Detroit Red Wings. And that gold medal match last year was riveting. Maybe we should check this thing out. Oh wow. Hockey is legit. The athleticism, the speed, the passion. Cue the end of the world...
(by the way, I hope I'm the first person to ever begin AND end an article with an ellipses)
Stiv, over and out
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