What The NHL Needs to Do to Stay "Relevant"

These last three years have been very good to the NHL.

The fantastic imagery of the Winter Classic mixed in with three Stanley Cup Finals with matchups that has made every fan salivate. Two years of Detroit vs. Pittsburgh, and of course the magic of the Chicago Blackhawks winning their first Cup in 49 years has really brought fans in right and left.

That's why this trend needs to continue.

For the NHL to continue it's climb up the ladder, it needs for the teams in big television markets in the United States to be dominant. We all can be sentimental and argue that a Canadian team needs to win the Cup. Now, personally, I would love to see the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks or Toronto Maple Leafs raise the trophy of Lord Stanley, but unfortunately, it would be ratings poison in the United States.

And here's why:

Although a majority of Americans think highly of Canada and it's people, they don't know a whole lot about it. Let's face it. Can most casual fans or non-hockey folks locate Winnipeg on a map? Or Edmonton? The answer is: no.

Americans want to see American teams in their sports. It's a sad reality, but our country is hung up on a sense of Nationalism like no other. There are great Canadian teams out there, but they don't care. And they probably never will.

For the NHL to continue to rise, they need big market matchups for their Stanley Cup. They need Los Angeles versus the New York Rangers, or Boston against Chicago. Those series raise the interest of the casual fan and get them to sample the product on NBC or Versus. The Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals and New York Rangers should be the banner teams of the 'new NHL'.

For the Kings, I believe they should have inquired about Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle. He is a top tier defensive specialist, and it's a shame how he has been treated. It gives you the notion that Toronto doesn't want him, and even though I think Brian Burke will eventually right the Leafs' ship, he could have handled the Kaberle situation a little better. It would behoove Dean Lombardi to bolster his defense with a guy like Kaberle.

Even though now it looks like the Phoenix Coyotes will be staying in the desert with a brand new owner, they have some serious work to do in growing hockey in the desert. A winning product will certainly help, but marketing the game will be the biggest key to success. I truly believe that hockey could grow in Phoenix. Look at non-traditional hockey markets like Dallas and San Jose. They spent a lot of time and money marketing the game to those cities, and it's paid off. When the fans get into hockey, they really get into it.

It looks like the NHL could be coming back to Quebec City, which is a good thing. Canadian PM Stephen Harper is looking into using government funds for a new rink in North America's "Most European City". I truly am happy hockey has flurished in Denver, but was heartbroken for the Nordiques fans who lost their beloved franchise. I think that if the situation in Atlanta or Florida continues the way it's going, you could see one of them becoming the second incarnation of the Nordiques.

Strolling through my local Best Buy, I noticed that "Slap Shot" was only five bucks. When you see a classic such as that for a low price, you must purchase. It's an impluse buy you must act upon.

If you have never seen clips of former Rangers goaltender Eddie Giacomin before, search You Tube, and get a glimpse of how heart and desire truly goes a long way. Never the most skillflul goal keeper, Giacomin used sheer will to make himself great. And absolutely one of the most beloved Ranger players ever.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me. Would love to hear from you.

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