June 3rd, 2004

More Doomsaying

We all know the ratings for the Finals are the lowest in years, mostly owed to a pair of unknown franchises and a dispiriting spate of boring hockey.

But what are the consequences? Baseball maven Tom Boswell is sounding a warning in today’s Washington Post:

Once a major sport falls back into the pack of wannabes, it never recovers. Once, prize fighting and horse racing were huge national sports, far bigger than hockey has ever dreamed of being. Does hockey understand that if it shrinks in popularity as much as boxing and horse racing that it will not just be small, it will almost be invisible? Can you say, bowling? Actually, that would be an insult to bowling with its large participant base.

The latest from ESPN’s John Buccigross was posted yesterday, and I just had to highlight this passage concerning how the coaches in the Finals are ignoring their responsibility to promote the game:

I had high hopes for John Tortorella. He’s had interesting sound bites throughout the year, and I was looking forward to listening to him talk hockey. Instead, he’s largely been short with his answers, disinterested and selective about whom he chooses to answer completely. It seems like he is putting on an act. This is the most important time for him and the sport. Neither is ever more visible or covered than now. It’s too bad because like Parcells, Tortorella is smart, passionate and observant.

Darryl Sutter only gives answers with any thought to questions from the Canadian media. Mike Babcock, Paul Maurice, Scotty Bowman, Larry Robinson and Bob Hartley are recent coaches in the finals that were like going to a college course on hockey for me.

Selling the game is everybody’s business — even during the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s a shame Tortorella and Sutter don’t seem to agree.

6 Responses to “More Doomsaying”

  1. travis says:

    the major sports radio station in the salt lake city area has been polling listeners today, asking “what is the 4th most-popular US sport behind football, baseball, and basketball?”

    unbelievably, ice hockey came in 7th. 7th. behind nascar (4th), golf (5th), and soccer (6th).

    kind of a weird poll question, though. perhaps people didn’t know if they were supposed to give their own “4th”or answer with what they think americans’ “4th” is.

    who’s to blame for hockey coming in 7th? i dunno. but the radio guys in salt lake who never talk about hockey (and when they do, come off as incompetent fools) might deserve some blame for our poll results. one of them was trying to name some recent cup winners today and could only come up with the anaheim mighty ducks. whoopsie.

    certainly sutter’s nationalism and conspiracy theories don’t help, and neither will a labor dispute that will only embitter fringe fans.

  2. Beau says:

    There’s definitely a bit of chicken-or-egg here. If the media really wanted to, they could hype the heck out of this series. Underdog teams, weather extremes, Canadian pride on the line and, yes, some good hockey. No shortage of compelling angles.

    Two reasons why this isn’t happening, both readily apparent to regular readers here:

    1. The NHL’s next season is in serious doubt.

    2. The Northeast media machine shuts down when their teams aren’t involved.

  3. BlackRedGold says:

    Selling the game isn’t my business.

    I could care less if the game was first in popularity in the US or 100th. It wouldn’t make a difference to me either way.

    I’m Canadian and I know that the NHL will always be the top of the sporting heap in my country. What benefit do I get if it becomes the biggest sport in the US? The satisfaction of following the most popular sport? Sorry, but if I like something I like it regardless of whether or not the majority of the continent does.

  4. Chris Marcil says:

    In some sense, yeah, who cares? As long as we can find the games on TV — and you can still find horse racing on TV — what literal difference does it make if hockey is growing?

    Hell, if the NHL lost its network contract then they could start the Finals during May sweeps again.

  5. Jon Fellows says:

    There needs to be a distinction between team and individual sports. (Although NASCAR is in sort of a limbo between the two – it’s a racing team but there’s no city or region it represents.)

    I would say a team sport counts as a major sport if you can pick up a daily paper anywhere in the country and see the current standings.

    Another determinant – to my politically-oriented mind – is that if a Member of Congress gets up on the floor to praise the local team when it wins the championship, it counts as a major sport. The NHL counts, Arena Football doesn’t.

    Good meeting you on Saturday Eric.

  6. PJ says:

    I was actually at a press conference with Darryl Sutter. He was so agitated after one stupid question that he shortened his answers and gave almost yes or no answers for a few more minutes before leaving.

    No chance in hell I was going to ask him anything.

    If the NHL is looking for Darryl Sutter to promote the league in the finals, then it is in trouble. He will get the players primed to run through a wall for him, but watching Ron Wilson talk to the press this season has been a revelation. I forgot what it was like to here sarcasm, or any answer over two sentences from an NHL coach.