Wanted to see what everyone's thoughts are on this, it's no secret among the big 4 NA leagues that the NHL is dead last in popularity. I'm torn on the matter and I'll explain why.
-The fans are generally knowledgeable, that isn't to say there are not bandwagoners but the ones who are, are nowhere near as annoying as NBA bandwagon fans are. I don't love when opposing fans take up half of PNC Arena but at least most of those guys know the game, and their own teams history,
-The players are generally regular guys through and through. They can go out and about and not be recognized nor looking for recognition.
-I appreciate how the Hockey media doesn't try to turn into TMZ like I feel ESPN and FS1 does with the NBA and sometimes the NFL. The topics are straight-forward and focus on whats going on the ice and not off of it. I also appreciate there are no 'Crosby vs Gretzky' debates a la Jordan vs LeBron like what the NBA media tries to spin every week it seems.
-It's disappointing how little Hockey gets covered in the States. It's never been great but nowadays it never gets talked about. Last years playoffs saw 3 game 7's go to overtime, all 4 of the wild-card teams advance past round 1, and the eventual Stanley Cup Champion who was dead-last in the league at the beginning of the calendar year. Yet, all I heard on national sports radio and TV was non-stop LeBron and Lakers nonsense (Lakers didn't even make the playoffs in the NBA) and the drama surrounding Kevin Durant and his Golden State teammates. I don't care how popular the NBA is, I refuse to believe that most people wanted to listen to that crap everyday during the NBA/NHL playoffs, ask Portland Trail Blazers or Toronto Raptors fans if they cared about the latest LeBron gossip this past spring, chances are good most of them didn't care. This goes back to my earlier point, the Hockey media tends to focus on the 'now' and whats playing on the ice and not off of it.
-I live in a state where Hockey is very much a 'niche' sport. People assume I'm from Michigan or Boston or Canada when they find out I'm a Hockey fan. Some of that's because the Canes were irrelevant up until last season but even during the playoff run, I personally heard some snide comments about how Hockey is not a "Southern" game and how the Canes are "Raleigh's team and no one else cares". It wasn't as bad as when they won the Cup but I still figured with none of the college Basketball teams in the Final Four, and the Hornets/Panthers not making the playoffs that the 'Bunch of Jerks' would have captured some interest around here, not as much as I would have hoped. It's similar to how the national sports media tends to treat the sport.
So I guess to conclude, I like how players and fans tend to love the game for the game, but I wish it got more respect.
What say you?