Big market success is bringing back the NHL

This originally appeared on Buffalo

Slowly but surely, the NHL is making a serious comeback on the national sports landscape. Even though ESPN continues their ignorant stance of pandering to sports in which they hold the rights to, the NHL is indeed becoming more relevant by the day.

After winning the 2011 Sports League of the Year award from Sports Business Journal, the NHL has enjoyed a calendar year of exciting games and some must-see events. Wise marketing put big ticket teams in the Winter Classic in consecutive seasons and the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals saw a winner from one of the largest cities in the US.

Things could get even better this summer as the Los Angeles Kings prepare for their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1993. The Kings will never own the city of Los Angeles. That would be a foolish assumption to make. However, they’re one of two teams left playing (Dodgers) and have the opportunity to bring a championship to the city.

This is one of those things that you want to root for as a hockey fan. Not as a Sabres fan, but a hockey fan. It is the same concept as understanding that Sidney Crosby’s health and success is good for the league, no matter how much you hate him. Right now the NHL is becoming a sexy ticket in Los Angeles, celebrities are taking notice and the team has a real chance at winning a title. A great majority of the people buying seats for the Finals are likely to ditch the bandwagon pretty quick, but there is going to be some serious interest drubbed up in LA for this team and the sport. Continue reading

2ITB Stanley Cup Finals prediction

With the Stanley Cup Final poised to begin this weekend, I’ll take one final stab at prognosticating who may win the final series of the 2011-12 NHL season. I suffered through an up-and-down run of picking this year’s series and stand at 5-8 entering the Finals.

This year pits a pair of unexpected opponents as neither entered the playoffs as a sexy pick to be playing for the Cup. While the Kings have been an annual choice for pre-season success, they had an underwhelming regular season and nosed their way into the playoffs. The Devils were quiet for most of the year and are just now getting fully healthy. While their aging goaltender was average in the regular season, he has been stellar in the playoffs.

Somewhat ironically, the Devils enter this series as the more potent scoring team as the Kings were the team whose blanketing defense helped them through the regular season. However, Los Angeles has played David to the NHL’s Goliath this spring, knocking off the top three seeds out west thanks to terrific goaltending and a recent injection of offense.

This may serve to be a very entertaining Cup Final, and has the potential to make a major impact on the national sports scene with LA as part of the series. While the NHL and NBC didn’t get their silver platter matchup of the Rangers and Kings, the Devils seem to be slowly reminding people in the tri-state area that hockey is indeed a serious sport. Continue reading