Hockey is number four out of the four major sports in the United States in terms of popularity. The growth of the NHL becomes increasingly important every year. Gary Bettman, like all commissioners, makes questionable decisions. It’s his success though that has kept him in his position. Bettman said “We’ve never seen more participation than what we are seeing now,” in July. His goal is always to continue this narrative, which he has done for the last 24 years.
Youth hockey in America
Youth within USA hockey is on the rise however and has been for the last 18 years. More T.J. Oshies and Patrick Kanes are needed. The growth of the youth in America is reflective of the number of Americans in the NHL. Canadiens have dominated the sport historically as they still do, but America is here. There were 555,175 youth hockey players registered to play last year, which was a record.
State by state, the participants in youth organized hockey is growing tremendously since 1999, most notably in Washington, D.C. The work USA Hockey has done in the Northeast area is astounding. D.C. alone has increased its youth participation by over 693 percent. Eighty-two players were playing youth hockey within the District of Columbia in 1999. Ten years later, 742 were playing in the area.
The USA Hockey registration numbers and correlation with the National Hockey League is linked to this success. NHL sensations always tell the media and fans they grew up being in situations like those in big games. They thank their parents and everything that has helped them through their journey from the start.
It all stems from the NHL’s relationship with USA Hockey and their emphasis on taking the game global.
Hockey around the world
The NHL has players from 21 different countries. Canada and the U.S. produce the vast majority. It is Commissioner Bettman’s duty to grow the game. He does this through expansion, but that only pertains to North America. There is talent across the globe. The NBA, NFL and MLB have leagues everywhere and the NHL must grow further globally as well.
China has 1.3 billion civilians. Hockey is the only major sport that has not made its way to the country in some way. It is somewhat imperative for the NHL to make its way over.
The league has scheduled games in Sweden in recent history, which lacks growth as hockey has found footing in Europe over the years. This week, the Canucks and Kings will play preseason games in Shanghai and Beijing.
The league hopes to “bring some enthusiasm to the game” (from NHL Deputy Commissioner) in two of the biggest cities on the planet. Each city is bigger than the NHL’s biggest market (New York). There is great potential with these games.
Growth is Equivalent to Revenue
You have to appeal to an audience, a fanbase to increase revenue to a league. Gary Bettman has done that to a very high degree like him or not. Last season’s playoffs marked the first time the NHL had a national TV contract where every playoff game was televised. The National Hockey League is in the entertainment business and judging by the league’s revenue stream over the years, they have done exceptionally well.
The NHL may never compete with the NFL, NBA or MLB, but success is defined as making good with what you have. Gary Bettman and members of the league front office have unquestionably done so these last two decades. They have endured two work stoppages and five expansions. The National Hockey has grown and continues to grow.
“From Our Haus to Yours”