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Will Gold Medal Game Help NHL?

Zac Parise of the US scores the equalizer against Canada in the men's 2010 Winter Olympics ice hockey final.
Chris Bouroncle | AFP | Getty Images
Zac Parise of the US scores the equalizer against Canada in the men's 2010 Winter Olympics ice hockey final.

As Sunday's gold medal hockey gamebetween Canada and the United States forged on, NBC advertised the NHL at breaks as if to say, "If you like this, you'll like us."

What NBC and the NHL did have was a captive audience.

The game likely will be the most watched hockey game since the tape delayed "Miracle on Ice" more than 30 years ago. But does it mean that the league's ratings will soar? Does it mean that I'll be pacing the same way I was yesterday for the Stanley Cup Finals?

You see, there's an argument to be made that this wasn't the game of hockey that Americans cared about. It was the fact that this was their sport and we had a chance to take them down on their home ice.

It was the fact that the stakes were so high. It was the fact that we shocked them before by beating them earlier in the Games.

If Canada was the overwhelming favorites in curling, we beat them before and the stakes were as high, we would have watched as well. And we wouldn't have Googled to see if there was a curling league for us to watch.

Having this game certainly gave the NHL a greater chance to grow out of its niche audience. People sampled the game that hadn't previously done so. But people did the same with soccer when the US women won the World Cup in 1999. That didn't help the Women's United Soccer League from going under after three seasons and losing $100 million.

Some will say that this will help the league. That new fans might want to watch the names they learned — Sidney Crosby, Ryan Miller and Zach Parise — more regularly. But in order for that to happen, it will mean that people, who previously haven't considered hockey, fell in love with the game on Sunday. They also would have had to fall in love with the players. That's a lot to ask for and I'm not sure that any fewer would have watched if it were just amateurs out there.

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