Team USA and Team Canada battled in a classic overtime game today in the Olympic Hockey Final today, with Team Canada coming out on top 3-2 in overtime. The Olympic hockey games have been getting great ratings and today’s Team USA-Team Canada hockey final is sure to be one of the highest rated games in history for hockey. Heck, MSNBC’s preliminary round game between USA and Canada was their second highest rated program in history, trailing just the election.
This game was not just a showcase for Canada, but a showcase for the NHL. And, the game couldn’t have been better. Team USA and Team Canada battled tooth and nail in this thriller, with USA tying the game in the final minute of regulation. Sidney Crosby stuck the dagger in our hearts with the game-winning goal in OT. With that said, it couldn’t have been a better game for just hockey fans, but casual sports fans.
The NHL has been struggling to garner much of any interest over the years, but have taken some interesting steps to increase their profile. The Winter Classic, which takes place on New Years Day is always a great event. The event took the nation by storm a few years ago when the Buffalo Sabres hosted The Winter Classic in Buffalo against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008. The game got a lot of attention due to snowy conditions, which added a dimension never before seen in the NHL. Last year the game was in Chicago’s Wrigley Field and this past one was in Fenway Park.
The Olympics are another great vehicle for the NHL to showcase their product, which has easily surpassed the NBA in quality. The NBA is close to becoming irrelevant, much like the NHL years ago.
The NHL has been halting it’s league to allow it’s players to participate in the Olympics for years now, but this may be the last one where the NHL allows it’s players to participate. And, Gary Bettman couldn’t make a bigger mistake. Gary Bettman is considering skipping on the Olympics after 2010.
While the National Hockey League will never become a huge sport in America like the NFL or MLB, it is slowly becoming a more viable product.
Now, they need to get on a real network and ditch Versus, which is a bottom feeder when it comes to networks.
It would behoove Gary Bettman to continue working with the Olympic committee in future Winter Olympics. Otherwise, he’s tossing a great showcasing opportunity down the drain.
Photo from http://www.examiner.com