On February 28, 2010, arguably the greatest hockey game that has ever been played took place between Canada and the United States for the men's Olympics gold medal. According to "Sports Business Daily", 26 million people watched the game on average. To put this in a better light, they also stated that one in three Americans that watched T.V. that day, watched that epic showdown.
With these astronomical viewer numbers, ice hockey is on its way back up. The Olympic men's ice hockey tournament of 2010 displayed some of the greatest hockey to date. With such a great display of hockey by the world's best players, the bar has been substantially raised for how hockey is supposed to be played.
Furthermore, the National Hockey League's poster boy, Sidney Crosby, scored the overtime winner for Team Canada in the gold medal game. The image of the Kid throwing his gloves high into the air, tossing aside his mouthpiece, raising his hands in celebration, and jumping on his teammates in udder ecstasy will forever been ingrained in the minds of not only Canadians, but also every hockey fan that saw it.
This further increases the lore of Crosby. Therefore, he becomes more recognizable, and, thus, more marketable than ever before. That is, if that is even possible. However, he must continue to produce huge numbers, otherwise, he may be seen by casual fans as a fluke.
However, not every NHL player benefited from the Olympics. Foremost in this category is Alexander Ovechkin, who was a massive flop in the games.
Even though Ovechkin scored fifty goals last year, at least forty goals every year of his career so far, and has won the Hart Trophy many times, he still plays second fiddle to Crosby , at least in the eyes of the public. Even though Crosby scores points by assists, while Ovechkin is a constant goal scorer, Crosby still is the poster boy of the NHL. This abominable performance by Ovechkin in the Olympic diminishes Ovechkin's marketability.
Ovechkin must rebound for the rest of the regular season, and be on fire for the playoffs so he can regain the recognition he lost from the Olympics. The NHL needs Ovechkin to be the Yin to the Yang of Sidney Crosby.
Even though the bar has been raised for the level of hockey, as well as the number of viewers, there are still many concerns that surround the NHL. As more people will start to watch hockey, they will expect the same level of play seen in that gold medal game. This is entirely unrealistic, but if the play is not good in the NHL, all those viewers will be lost once again. The level of play in the NHL must be raised to keep and get more viewers and fans.
However, at the same time, the NHL should not try to change the core of the game. If they do this, then they will lose their most important fans, the hardcore fans. If the NHL changes the foundation of the game, and loses all their diehard fans, then the entire league will fall to pieces. The NHL must keep their most loyal fans in order to ensure the expansion of hockey.
Even though the foundations to the game should remain unchanged, there are still changes needed for the betterment of hockey. First of all, the failing southern United States teams should be relocated to more northern markets. This will in turn further the fan base of the NHL, and, also, generate more revenue for the league at the same time. However, if there are southern teams not failing, they should be allowed to stay.
Also, the dimensions of goalie pads must be changed. Some goal-tenders have so many pads now, that they cover almost the entire net. In my mind, this creates a competitive imbalance in the NHL.
All those pads take the skill out of the game that was once needed to be a goal-tender. Also, this leads to players being unable to score goals, creating this competitive imbalance. Thus, goalie pads should be smaller by rule. This would lead to a better competitive balance, and restore the skill once needed to be a premier goalie in the NHL.
With this rise in ice hockey, the NHL will be in better position than it has been in years. Because of that gold medal game, the NHL may soon become one of premier major sports leagues once again. All the NHL has to do is market its teams and players properly, keep the foundations of the game, and make small changes to the game.
Should the NHL do all this, they could end up being the greatest sports league in the world. All of hockey dreams of this day. Hopefully this dream is obtained sooner rather than later. As soon as this dream materializes, then not only will the NHL benefit, but every other sports league will also get some kind of financial gain from it.