Kings-Coyotes match-up is good for the NHL

Posted: May 9, 2012 by Christian Hetrick in Pro Sports
Tags: , , , , ,

By: Christian Hetrick

It’s a changing of the guard out west. The usual suspects – the Canucks, Sharks, Blackhawks and Red Wings – are out. In are the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes, the two remaining Western Conference teams set to battle for the conference title and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals later this week.

This isn’t the matchup the NHL wanted. Not by a long shot. A California team? An Arizona team that just last year was rumored to move to Winnipeg before the Thrashers did? There’s no tradition here, no rivalry, no storyline. They would have much rather had the Canucks battle the Sharks in a rematch of last year’s conference final, or have Hockey Town back in the final four. This Kings-Coyotes matchup is probably the last matchup the NHL and NBC wanted to see.

But the NHL shouldn’t be complaining. In fact, they should be jumping for joy.

This is what the NHL wants, to expand the game. One of the biggest problems with the NHL is that it’s always felt like a club, that you’re either an original six team or you’re nothing. Don’t play in the northeastern part of the country? Sorry, not a real hockey town.

But this Western Conference Final gives the NHL a chance to plant some roots in some pretty big markets. Los Angeles is the second biggest media market in the country, while Phoenix, an up and coming city that’s establishing itself as the new destination for retirees, is the twelfth largest media market.

This is the beauty of what the NHL and NBC did for this year’s playoffs. Every postseason game, no matter which market you live in, is available on NBC, NBC Sports, CNBC or NHL Network. For too long, NBC had just one game on any given night, usually the best or most anticipated matchup. There’s nothing wrong with a “Game of the Week,” like NBC does with football, but giving fans the chance to see every team play cannot be topped. Casual fans can now see the likes of Pekka Rinne, Jonathan Quick or Mike Smith, three outstanding goaltenders that normally wouldn’t get the primetime coverage because they weren’t in “hockey markets.”

The NHL has learned a lesson from the NFL. Instead of acting like the NBA, which only showcases its best teams and players, something the NHL did initially after the lockout with Crosby and Ovechkin, the NHL is showing off all of its teams and players. The result has been a highly rated postseason, helping the NHL climb back to where it once was before the lockout.

Spreading the wealth is always a good thing. Thirty passionate fan bases are better than six, as it generates more hype and revenue for the league and the networks that broadcast the games. If the Kings and Coyotes put together a memorable series, one with big hits, tight games and overtime thrillers, the NHL may finally be able to move out of the “niche sport” category and establish itself as something much bigger: a mainstream sport.

  1. It is fantastic for hockey and a great story line for two NHL greats Mike Richards and Jeff Carter traded away, reunited, and now on the brink of making history with the Kings by potentially bringing them their first Stanley Cup

  2. Chris Ross says:

    Good points for sure. I see your points and there are no doubt valid but I think the problem for the NHL is that it is expanding the game the wrong way. Yeah I know that these are teams that haven’t made much noise in recent years and with the Coyotes they need this kind of thing. But the problem is that there isn’t enough excitement generated by these teams. The Coyotes feature a goaltender and the Kings feature a goaltender, albeit with good skill players but no superstars in this mix of teams. Professional sports is star driven and the NHL is severely lacking in that aspect right now. These two teams aren’t helping in that regard. Also, you think you could take a look at my blog post cuz I’d love to hear what you have to say

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