Tuesday, March 02, 2010

How big is hockey now?

If you're a hockey fan - even in Minnesota - watching the games on TV is nothing short of frustrating. I'll admit to not being much of a sports guy but I've loved hockey since the Minnesota Wild began playing a decade ago. I was pretty much too young to care much about the Minnesota Northstars during their existence but I do remember them leaving for Dallas and wondering why it happened. But at that point I had never seen an NHL game on TV. I grew up out on the farm - we didn't have cable or satellite so if it wasn't on the big three networks or PBS I didn't have the opportunity to see it.

Thus began my long disconnect from the NHL. I think that the sport's major regional likings have definitely contributed to its lack of national popularity. Think about it, you can't really play a quick pickup hockey game. You need certain things like a sheet of ice, sticks, skates, a puck and if you're serious about it pads and a helmet. It can get spendy in a hurry. Baseball requires little more than an open park, a bat and a ball. Sure, a mitt is handy but even with that addition a kid can get by with about 30 dollars of cash outlay. Football is even cheaper because all you truly need is the ball - about ten bucks and you're set.

Hockey is expensive. How many cities have indoor rinks? How easy is it to get some time on that ice? Yeah, the more popular hockey gets, the tougher it is to gain entrance in to the sport. Sure, you could play hockey outdoors but even in Minnesota our outdoor ice lasts about 3 months before it turns to slush and becomes unskateable. But this year's Olympics may have begun changing people's attitude towards hockey.

The gold medal game, featuring the second USA vs. Canada matchup of the games, pulled in the best ratings in 30 years. Yes, the best TV ratings since the 1980 Miracle on Ice team at Lake Placid, NY. Minneapolis was the fourth highest market in the gold medal game ratings:

1. Buffalo, 32.6/51
2. Pittsburgh, 31.9/50
3. Detroit, 26.9/47
4. Minneapolis, 26.4/53
5. Milwaukee, 24.5/43
6. Boston, 24.1/46
7. Chicago, 23.5/41
8. Columbus, 22.3/37
9. Denver, 22.2/42
10. Philadelphia, 20.9/35

The cities listed - outside of Milwaukee - are all NHL strongholds but some of the others in the top 25 markets aren't. Maybe those folks will carry over their Olympic hockey fandom to the NHL. NBC, after all, has a Sunday game of the week so hockey on a major network does exist. The Olympic hockey I saw on Sunday was exciting. It was fast paced and the action was all over the ice. If that type of play carries over tot he NHL, fans could very well follow. Plus, seeing the game in high-def makes watching it far easier.

Now that you're well-versed in hockey's popularity on TV, check out MinnPics for photos which are easier to digest than words.

1 comment:

Beth said...

as much as I love me some violent sports, I never really got into hockey. I mean, there's ICE! it's COLD!!! no thank you very much!