I don't think that article was arguing that ESPN didn't cover hockey as much as the disrespect they show the sport when they do. It's one thing for a network not to cover the NHL, in the same way that TSN doesn't really cover the NFL, but when TSN does cover football, it's done respectfully and professionally. How many mullet jokes have you heard on Sportscenter (note: not Sportscentre), and how many times have you heard ESPN anchors literally burst into laughter while covering NHL highlights as if to say: "I can't believe we're even wasting our time covering this stupid-ass game". Hockey is a punchline to them and they stereotype the NHL as a league full of Bertuzzi's, Prongers, and Simons. It's flat-out unprofessional, regardless of how little or how much time they spend covering the game.
And the NHL is not in danger of collapsing - it has always been a gate-driven sport and will never capture the US audience the way football (not baseball) has, unless it finds a US-born Gretzky or someone who can legitimately challenge his records and create buzz/drama - as good as Crosby is, I don't think he's 200-pt-season good, which is a problem in having someone who was so far better that the rest, statistically speaking; you're essentially fighting for second place the entire time.
I think most of the troubles the NHL faces in the US are caused by a) a bad economy that prohibits fans the luxury of paying $110 per ticket and b) horrible owners that resort to quick-profit-fixes like raising ticket prices without taking the time to establish (or in most cases, re-establish) a strong, diverse fan base. Think of Jacobs what he's done to the Bruins, raising ticket prices, not investing in his team, and wondering why his profit margins continually shrink despite the quick-fix approach, which is inherently causing this profit margins to shrink.
I think Bettman pushed expansion too quickly and was too worried about consolidating the league's power with respect to the PA, including netting the huge expansion fees the league charges to new franchise owners to create a war chest* rather than strengthening (not necessarily expanding) the league's influence in the states. I think the league in general is impatient and very prone to overreaction or underthinking.
*I'm someone who believes that Bettman intended to take the CBA to a lock-out and force the dismissal of Goodenow.
Edited by Collin Lane, 22 July 2007 - 03:20 AM.