First of all, listening to 97.1 is the first problem, especially Valenti and Foster. Sencond, the NFL and MLB will always be #1 and #2 in the country and any state, because more kids pay it growing up, not because it is better, but it is easier to assemble a neighborhood cast of players and run around a field than it is to rent ice, gather enough players to offset the ungodly ice fee PLUS find ONE, let alone TWO goalies that actually know how to pay the position good enough to make shooting at him/her fun, PLUS hope that everyone has all the required equipment.
That doesn't make playing baseball or football more fun, just easier to do as a kid growing up. That is why the NHL is what it is in Canada, they have backyard rinks and most kids have the hand me down equipment from big brother or dad. It's just easier to play football and baseball as a kid here.
Now that being said, those of us who were fortunate enough to grow up playing hockey, for one reason or another, will ALWAYS rank the NHL #1 over the NFL or MLB, but don't get me wrong, I was very, VERY ecstatic in 1984 and for the Tigers the last two times they went to the Series. I was the same way in 1989 and 1990 and 2004 for the Pistons and I am very excited every year to see if the Lions can actually become something. I will never hold ANY of those Championships or future ones higher than ANY of our Cups, or future Cups, but for that one moment in time, when the Tigers/Pistons/Lions ever win a championship again, I will take my attention away from the Wings to celebrate and enjoy. I feel the same about College sports as well. Hockey #1, then the rest on a winning basis. But the majority of the population, same with professional sports, would take Football, then basketball in the NCAA before College Hockey or even College Baseball.
That is what makes us NHL fans special. We don't follow the crowd and do what everyone else does. Sure, we all grew up playing Football and Baseball as well, but it was something about Hockey that we fell in love with and it shows to this day. I love the NHL more than anything, I would chose the Winter Classic of ANY bowl game on January 1st. Being honest though, if it came down to watching the Red Wings play a regular season game on Superbowl Sunday if the Lions were there, I'd have to watch the Lions...Same would go with the Tigers in the World Series...now the Pistons in a game 7 of the Finals would probably lose out to the Wings, but I would switch back and forth...