Oct 202011

14 of the 30 NHL teams share their city with an NBA franchise. The 14 cities all rank within the top 20 most populated North American cities with a professional sports franchise. I’ve touched on this before, but the potential of an impending NBA lockout is a free advertisement for Gary Bettman and the NHL. Imagine that – the NHL could do something right by not doing anything.

First, there’s a general agreement that basketball is much more popular in the US. In most cities, it didn’t matter that the NHL was gone for a season because the NHL is secondary to the NBA in terms of interest, viewership, and money. The two games are vastly different and I have met very few people who consider themselves to be a fan in both sports.

Ray Ratto said that he doesn’t think the NBA lockout will have much impact on NHL attendance, and uses the lack of significant change in NBA attendance records during and after the NHL lockout to make his case. I agree with this conclusion, even though I think it’s drawn from flawed methodology.

Since hockey and basketball aren’t interchangeable, I don’t see much value in examining changes in attendance as the two sports relate to each other. I tend to think that a Blackhawks fan is more likely to attend a Bulls game than vice versa, but there are no guarantees for either scenario. I think one of the few conclusions that can be made from Ratto’s data is that the NBA wasn’t affected by the NHL lockout very much.

But rather than going for quantity, I want quality.

Long-time readers know that I am a big Bill Simmons fan. I like the way he writes and I think he makes some really good observations about basketball and baseball. I wondered to myself many times if he was ever going to attend Kings games, because if there was something I wish Simmons wrote more about was hockey.

Simmons isn’t an expert in hockey, and I imagine he’ll admit as much, but I would like to hear what he thinks about the game, Dustin Brown as the quintessential captain, Anze Kopitar’s flip pass, Drew Doughty’s double chin, and Mike Richards’ general awesomeness. So I was really happy to hear that Simmons did get Kings tickets, although his introductory piece delved into more basketball (understandably) than hockey.

I care that Simmons watches hockey more than I care about a member of the Detroit Pistons fan club jumping ship and cheering on the Red Wings because I value Simmons’ opinion more. It’s is certainly a reason to fulfill my own natural curiosity about how fans (and journalists) of other sports view and analyze hockey. But it’s also because Simmons has a (seemingly) well-read and (more importantly) loyal fan base. As a hockey fan, the discussions Simmons is able to generate mean much more to me than a guy who spends some money at the Joe (brought to you by Amway) once a year because there’s no game in Auburn Hills.

If the NBA lockout can get Simmons to talk about hockey and improves NHL attendance by just one, I’m okay with that one.

  4 Responses to “The NHL’s golden opportunity”

  1. […] ARMCHAIR HOCKEY: Jason Chen believes the NBA lockout could provide the NHL with a golden opportunity, not to win over NBA fans, but instead to win over pundits like Bill Simmons, who isn’t “a hockey guy” but has opted to follow the LA Kings while the NBA lockout goes on, which might help improve – even if only marginally – NHL attendance. […]

  2. Great points. From the beginning I never really thought that NBA fans would necessarily rush out and buy NHL tickets. There are still a lot more sports out there that would compete with the NHL. However having even a few more influential sports personalities from the USA watching hockey is a great thing.
    After reading that first piece by Simmons, I too am very excited for his coverage this season.

  3. Good article. Thanks for the heads up on the Simmons article. Interesting to think what the small ripple effect of Simmons covering the NHL would be. Imagine the Stanley Cup Final this year is NYR vs LAK. With the NBA lockout, that would be huge for the league.

  4. I can’t see either NYR or LAK in the finals. The Rangers aren’t deep enough and they can’t rely on Lundqvist the entire time especially if Marc Staal’s out for a long time. The Kings have about 2-3 more playoff failures to go before they’re in the finals, I think.

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