Bettman and Co. lucked out when the Eastern Conference sent an Original Six team (and one of the biggest television markets in the United States) to this year's Finals. Likewise, Vancouver drew the interest of all of Canada, whether good or bad.
However, it appeared that was all the league was getting. Boston and Vancouver couldn't be further apart, squaring off only once or twice during the regular season and separated by about as long a distance as one could imagine.
On paper, this matchup had all the rivalry potential of a series between the Johnstown Chiefs and your D-League dek hockey club.
Wrong. The series went the distance and Boston walked away with its first title in decades. Tim Thomas extended his regular-season dominance to turn in a Conn Smythe-worthy performance, and Mark Recchi retired a champion.
Vancouver, you may have heard, burned.
Game 7 drew one of the highest Finals ratings in league history. Folks took notice of this series—and perhaps more importantly, are now taking notice of the NHL as a league.
With Boston's victory, the NHL can now boast four consecutive years of ideal championship matchups. Since 2008, an Original Six team has appeared in each Final, winning three. Pittsburgh won in 2009, a franchise that was part of the league's first expansion in 1967.
The Stanley Cup itself is steeped in tradition and for four straight years its winners have themselves had rich histories. After seeing a streak of winners from non-traditional markets through the middle of the decade, hockey's old guard has taken the lead again.
For Bettman and the league, that means spikes of popularity in populous, hockey-rich markets.
Will that good luck continue? Fans and league executives can hope. Here are seven championship matches to hope for in the coming seasons.