However, the Detroit Red Wings indicated once again that until someone proves otherwise in a playoff circumstance, they are still the best. Across the United States, the game got huge coverage and all of it positive.
It begs the question: why does the sport struggle in the U.S. for a foothold of prestige in the sporting community? No such problem exists here in Canada where the only question is whether or not some fans are a little too caught up in the game. But in the States, how to extend the sports popularity beyond the pockets of passion in the north and northeast remains a difficulty.
It was a stated purpose of expansion to reach most of the major cities in all areas of the country to provide the national footprint for television. Oh, yeah, did I mention that cash was involved?
And, indeed, NBC has done a terrific job of presenting the NHL to the American public.
Even Bob Costas was pulled from his Manhattan pad to cover Thursday’s event. It garnered a 2.9 rating, which was a 12 per cent increase from last year.
A good number for hockey, but is it good enough to keep the network coming back?
One can only hope so.
However, as long as the sport cannot produce artificial ice surfaces that are not prohibitively costly, it will be nearly impossible to hook a good part of the country.
I can only hope for the day when a kid in Texas can strap on a pair of blades in June and skate on an outdoor surface that simulates real ice. Only then does hockey have a chance to crack the national consciousness more often than when a Winter Classic game or Stanley Cup final is played.
But I don't care today.
I am still fondly remembering Thursday’s Classic. It was a day to celebrate the sport for those who know it best and a chance to showcase it to the non-believers, and it was pulled off superbly.
If the rest of the U.S. wants to watch fly fishing, well, that's their problem.
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