Winter Olympic Hockey: Bound To Help NHL Popularity Grow

Peter LomuscioCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 18:  Gary Bettman of the NHL speaks during IIHF & NHL press conference on day 7 of the 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 18, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After arguably the best hockey tournament ever witnessed, can the hockey fever that the Winter Olympics created benefit the NHL?

Despite the fact that United States' supporters were left crushed after an agonizing sudden-death overtime goal by Canadian prodigy Sidney Crosby in the gold medal game, Team USA’s tremendous performance is sure to have won over many of its supporters to the National Hockey League.

The NHL has been tossed onto the back burner ever since the lockout in 2004-2005. It has been abruptly bumped from the major four sports of the nation and has been relegated to Versus for the majority of the league's broadcasts.

This sudden emergence of hockey headlines reminds many of the soccer craze that developed after the US National Team’s success at last year's Confederations Cup.

The NHL provided the Winter Olympics with basically all of the stars that were in the competition.

The NHL has altered numerous rules over the years to try to add more skill and excitement to the game to attract more fans. They have changed the rules to promote more power-plays, exciting overtimes, and, of course, the famous shootouts.

It is evident that more changes are likely to be made after the success of Olympic-style hockey. Common positives people enjoyed were the fast pace and minimal stoppages in game-play.

At the same time, though, the NHL must not annoy its loyal fans who love the sport’s roots and history. Asking for a few more goals is controversial enough, so please, NHL, nothing drastic that would disrespect the game.

Many Olympic hockey spectators may claim that their interest in hockey only went as far as their patriotism. This is understandable, because many of these casual spectators don’t have the patience or commitment to a team during the full 82-game regular season. But this is where the NHL has to step it up.

The NHL finally has all their stars on one of the biggest stages in the world during the Winter Games, and it is vital that they strike while the iron is hot and benefit as much as they can from this hockey-mania.

Market the stars and faces of the up-and-coming American stars; Ryan Miller, Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Quick are all young marketable stars that are sure to succeed in the decade to come.

Get a real TV deal back in the works involving ESPN. ESPN is the biggest weapon in sports marketing here in the United States. Once the NHL is back in business with the mothership, NHL highlights, games, and news will be back on the burner.

The days when you only see one or two goals on the weekly top 10 plays will be over. Crosby and Ovechkin won’t be the only names ever mentioned, and the game and its supporters will expand dramatically.

The time that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has been waiting for has finally arrived. The opportunity to supplant the NHL back into the major four sports in the US, this time for good, has been placed into his lap.

Let's hope he is the man who can take advantage of this opening and get the National Hockey League back to the respectable level where it belongs.


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