Friday, May 7, 2010

Ice hockey: almost as popular as muzzleloading!

With the NHL playoffs in full swing, there's been a spate of media stories about interest in the sport. Exactly how much interest depends on who your listening to.

If, for example, you're listening to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the "metrics" for pro hockey are good and improving -- and all is well in the land of pro hockey. 

If you're CBS Sports columnist Mike Freeman, there's something that doesn't smell right about a major league sport getting beaten regularly in the television ratings by reruns of "Homeboys in Outer Space."

My view: the TV ratings are a reflection of a deeper problem. No one plays ice hockey. Or those of us who do are freaks -- just 1.9 % of the population.

Take a look below. Dart throwing is more popular than ice hockey. So is loading up a muzzle and blowing the dickens out of something.

Where the hell do you get a muzzle? The pilgrim store? And don't those things blow up in your face?

The following charts are taken from the National Sporting Goods Assn. website. The gist of it: the as the nation's population keeps growing, fewer people are playing ice hockey.

Why does this matter?

If you want to create a fan base, I think you need people to play your sport. Granted, ice hockey will never be as easy to play as going to the local park to hit a softball or shoot some hoops. But most major metro areas do have rinks and all the guys I know who have started playing hockey in middle age remind of Edward Norton in "Fight Club" -- they've found what was missing.

So if I was a pro hockey executive, I'd be scanning the statistics below and perhaps not concern myself with the latest T-shirt toss or strobe light display. I'd be dialing up the local rink, asking the following question: "How do I get more of my fans playing the sport and spreading the gospel of ice hockey?"

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