Is NHL Benefitting From NBA Lockout?
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is going through what the NHL went through in 2005. Their Collective Bargaining Agreement was up and the owners and players could not find any even ground to settle on a deal. Therefore, in 2005 the NHL canceled it's season completely.
The NBA has been in meetings to discuss potential deals, but there doesn't seem to be any progress being made. They keep cancelling games weeks at a time, but haven't scrapped the whole season yet.
Is the NHL in a position to draw some interest in the sporting world with basketball being on hold? You bet, but will it actually happen? No.
The NBA is televised nationally on ESPN and ABC. Fans think that if there isn't NBA basketball to watch, then fans will turn to other sports they can watch during the week, naturally thinking hockey. How naive we hockey fans are to even have that thought go through our minds.
ESPN is a smart organization. They know what the USA wants to see and hockey isn't one of them. After the NHL lockout in 2005, ESPN dropped its coverage of hockey. They used to carry games through ABC and I can still remember hearing Gary Thorne call the 2002 Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup Championship. Eventually, Fox Sports Net jumped back on the bandwagon, and with no cable provider, OLN signed a deal with the NHL and became Versus, which is now changing over to NBC Sports (NBC is the national NHL coverage in the USA).
There is clearly no issue with getting fans from Canada; TSN, Rogers Sportsnet and CBC are doing a fantastic job, and Canadians naturally like hockey. We have no basketball or baseball to watch other than the Raptors and Blue Jays, and the CFL is nothing compared to the NFL.
There is no way the NHL is benefiting largely from this NBA lockout. American fans won't watch hockey just because basketball isn't on. If they have ESPN for seeing NBA games, then they'll eat up whatever ESPN throws at them first, whether it be boxing, wrestling, NASCAR, Poker, darts, college sports or a rodeo.
The only way I can see this benefiting the NHL is in team cities with an NBA franchise. For example, with no Phoenix Suns playing, should we see a slight increase in fan attendance at Coyotes games? We should, but it isn't significant enough to have any real effect on hockey.
Some people think the NBA will die. This is not the case. ESPN will never let go of the NBA just because of a lockout. Clearly, Americans in some cities can live without hockey, but not basketball. We have our opinions about what game is better, but the viewing audience ultimately shows that the NBA is dominant. Once the lockout is over, the NBA will get their fans back like the NHL did and have ESPN viewers transfixed once again.
The NHL will just have to wait in line for a turn that might never come.