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The Future of the NHL: HD Was Made for Hockey

Dan SmithCorrespondent IJune 16, 2009

DETROIT - JUNE 12:  Maxime Talbot #25 and Matt Cooke #24 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for the puck against Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings during Game Seven of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on June 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Game Seven of the 2009 Stanley Cup was the most watched hockey game in 36 years.  Eight million TV's were tuned into the game in which Pittsburgh went into Detroit and won the NHL's Stanley Cup.

I picked the Red Wings since a home team has not a lost a game seven in 38 years, but this is not your father's NHL.

It is a new NHL. One that looks primed to pass NASCAR (they would actually be passing NASCAR after being passed by NASCAR) as the fourth most popular sporting league in America. 

The loss of a season and a bad TV contract turned the NHL into a niche sport. 

However, momentum has returned to the ice like a front line shift change. Everyone on ESPN keeps talking about how they want the NHL back on ESPN.

The all-sports-network has also become a marketing giant, and with stars like Sydney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, it only makes sense to have them slapping shots in SportsCenter commercials.

Another part of the momentum is the advent of High-Definition broadcasting. The crystal clear picture helps you to see the puck. The gap between live action and watching it on television has never been greater for any sport than hockey.

Now with HD, who knows how popular the NHL can become, especially in the southern US cities that all landed teams during the NHL's expansion years. The NHL was the fourth sporting league, and they used the model of the big three to grow their league.

When the NHL started with six teams, the goalies didn't even wear masks. Could you imagine then that their league would grow to cities like San Jose, Tampa Bay, and Phoenix?

The league might have grown too quickly, but there has not been any talk of contraction. Even the moribund franchise in Phoenix is looking for a buyer to keep the team in Phoenix. What if they went back to Winnipeg? 

It is nice to see the NHL with some momentum, and it would be nice if they seized this opportunity to put their game in millions of HD homes next season. Hockey is cool to watch on TV, but could you imagine if you could see the puck?

(ESPN) HD might push the NHL to new heights of popularity and marketability. 

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