Of late, the National Hockey League has almost been like the forgotten child of American sports. While the NFL, MLB, and NBA have received lots of attention, the NHL has sat there on the side being thankful for any mention.
This could all change come next fall when the new hockey season starts up again. With labor problems in both the NBA and NFL, and a new TV contract right around the corner, the NHL could become the new popular kid in school.
This slideshow features five reasons why the NHL is in for some added viewers.
Feel free to comment below and add your own reasons.
On March fourth, the NFL's collective bargaining agreement will expire, and the league will considered to be locked out.
If the two sides are not able to come together before or during next year's NFL season, the millions of people who watch the NFL are going to be looking for another sport to invest their interest in.
While college football will definitely receive a jump from this, the NHL could be in for some new viewers too.
The NHL season starts in the beginning of October, right when the NFL season is kicking into full gear. A lot of NFL fans will be looking to attend another sporting event, and the NHL will certainly be happy to take them.
Like the NFL, the NBA has a very good chance of being locked out next season as well.
According to Player's Union Executive Director Billy Hunter, a lockout is 99 percent certain.
Like the NFL, a lot of the NBA fans will turn to college basketball to get their sports fix. But unlike the NFL, basketball is a very up and down game with constant possession changes.
The NHL is a sport built on a similar concept, just with a lot less scoring. NBA fans who give the NHL a shot may be surprised by the similarities, and may convert to become NHL fans.
The NHL and NBA seasons overlap for most of the year, and a NBA lockout would be huge for the NHL's popularity.
Bloomberg first reported on Wednesday that Google's YouTube is interested in streaming live NHL games on their site. (Read here)
Although NHL spokesman Michael DiLorenzo says the NHL is not in talks nor has had any discussions about the topic, it would be foolish for the NHL to pass up on this opportunity.
If the NHL is serious about spreading its game, then Youtube is a great launching platform.
The Bloomberg article references an Indian cricket league being broadcast live on YouTube, and how people from 250 different countries have tuned in.
In an age when people are always on their computer, and more and more people are watching games online, a contract with YouTube would do a lot in drawing in more viewers to NHL games.
The NHL is up for a new TV deal and after its most successful season on television in years, it is a hot commodity.
Right now Versus and NBC have the best chance of holding onto the deal, mainly because they are who currently carries the NHL.
The merge of Comcast and NBC Universal did wonders for the NHL. Now Versus and NBC share announcers and reporters, which can only help the NHL's image.
ESPN had been mentioned in having an interest in buying the rights to the NHL, which would also be good for the league in expanding in the US.
No matter who caries the NHL, they know that the ratings have been going up, and more people are tuning in. With this in mind, more NHL games should be on TV in the future.
For a full breakdown of the current negotiations click here.
For most NHL games throughout the year, only hockey fans are tuning in. However, in the past few years there has been one game a year that captivates more than just hockey fans, and that is the Winter Classic.
There is something very fascinating about watching a hockey game played outside, and people are tuning in.
This years classic between the Penguins and Capitals was highlighted by a HBO special on the two teams leading up to the game. 24/7 received a lot of publicity and became must watch TV.
The NHL expanded to two outdoor games this year, with the Heritage Classic just last weekend. As long as the NHL does not overdue these games, they will have people tuning in year after year.
It seems as though the stars are aligning for the NHL.
With the pending NFL and NBA lockouts, a lot of fans will be looking for a new sport to watch. And with the new TV deal and potential for a YouTube deal these fans are going to easily be able to find the NHL.
Executives at the NHL must be getting very excited for the opportunities that lie ahead for their sport.