The NHL has always been the least popular sport of the four major leagues in the United States. The NFL, MLB, and the NBA have far surpassed professional hockey in popularity.
This is partly due to the warm climate out west, but also because most of did not grow up with hockey even in our background. But also this has to do with media.
The west coast media would much rather cover the San Francisco Giants, Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Lakers because those are the sports most Americans were raised on. The reason for its lack of fanfare is not all organic though.
Part of the blame also must go to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Since Bettman took over in 1993, he has witnessed three lockouts (1994-95, 2004-05, and 2012-13). No commissioner in American professional sports has ever witnessed that many work stoppgages. Lockouts seem to have different effects on different sports. Major League Baseball took a hit in 1994 after the strike, but the NBA had record ratings last year after the 2011 lockout.
It is clear that the NHL and Gary Bettman did not think about their place in the sports hierarchy before going this far. The NHL’s popularity was on its way up, but now all bets are off. Bettman has cost money to the workers, players, coaches, trainers, the entire league. This cannot become an acceptable practice when owners and players disagree. How will this all affect the West Coast sports fans in 2013?
It will sting considerably.
Many people were getting vested in hockey as the Los Angeles Kings gained momentum in the postseason last year, much like when more people grew interested when Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Kings. The die-hards will always stay but, who knows about the casual West Coast fan?
The Golden State Warriors and LA Clippers are doing so well, maybe they would rather watch them. Even the Sacramento Kings and Lakers are making waves up and down the coast, the San Francisco 49ers are in the playoffs and the San Diego Chargers are making national news with their head coaching search.
Maybe the casual fan wants to watch the NHL, but simply didn’t have a game to watch. The San Jose Sharks seem to always make the playoffs, the Anaheim Ducks are always dangerous and the Kings won the Stanley Cup last season, lest Los Angelinos forget.
Is all that enough to bring left-coasters back? Only time will tell.