'Big hockey market' discourse misunderstands NHL's growth

The 2023 Stanley Cup winner will come from a 'non-traditional' hockey market, which may impact television viewership but shouldn't concern NHL fans in other cities.

Video Transcript

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I don't like people who are being all upset and pissy because we have Florida, Carolina, Vegas, and insert one between Dallas and Seattle here, in this Conference Final. Like if we want this game to be more popular and not just be kind of buried amongst the big four, shouldn't we root for something like this? Shouldn't this be something cool like this is an opportunity?

Like we can all go back into our own respective fandoms and look back at a cup run that either solidified us as hockey fans or at least we saw other people do the same thing, or just distinct memories that will stay with us for a long time, just kind of nurturing the love we have for the game of hockey. There's an opportunity for all four of those teams to have that solidified because of a run like this. And it just so happens to be in so-called non-traditional markets. And it just so happens none of them are Canadian.

Whatever. It doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter. So shout out to little guys in this case.

ARUN SRINIVASAN: The market size thing is just absolutely hilarious. Like as I shared in the zone time, my group chat, like when has this big-- like that's my friend [INAUDIBLE], it's like, when does this become like a sports debate topic? Like who cares? Like you're not part of the ownership group. Is anyone going to be like, oh, wow, like we're going to see Carolina and Vegas in the final. Two teams have won the division. There's not enough star power there? Like as long as the hockey is good, like what else matters?

Do you really-- are you really looking at Nielsen ratings to like determine your enjoyment of the game? It's so bizarre to me.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: You got one of them Nielsen boxes in your group?

ARUN SRINIVASAN: No, but like I seriously can't imagine like Greg Santoni being like upset if he gets like a Carolina Vegas final. Like I just don't understand it. And why is that like of any public interest to the fans? This idea, like, oh, we would all be dreaming of like a Rangers Kings final. Like I guess, like I guess we were--

JULIAN MCKENZIE: I mean we got that final already. How well did that do in terms of Ratings

ARUN SRINIVASAN: Like as long as the hockey is good, that's all that matters. And like there seems to be like four good teams. Seattle like leads the Angels on 505 goals, like Dallas was in the final in 2020, Carolina has been knocking at the door for so long, you know. I just-- I don't understand. And then Florida, again, won the President's Trophy last year, have the team of destiny vibes after knocking out the Bruins and Leaves. Like there are four good storylines or five good storylines still available left in the playoffs.

And the idea that it's because like the lack of market size is going to hurt, like I don't understand it, man. Like especially like sports journalists just parroting this points about how, oh, television executives need to be scared. Like OK, man, I don't know what to tell you. Then go work in like television programming, I guess, and not journalism or not like content creation. It's just-- it's a hilarious thing to be preoccupied with.

SAM CHANG: It's a fun-- I agree with Arun entirely, like it's a fundamental misunderstanding of what draws people to the game. Like all you have to do-- I know we talked about this already a few weeks ago, but all you have to do is look at that Tony X thread from Saint Louis.


SAM CHANG: The game sells itself. You have this sport that is inherently fast, beautiful, like it is just fun to watch. And focusing on all these extraneous things about who-- like which fan bases deserve to win the cup, and like what is a traditional market like? Who cares? This sport sells itself. And somehow, they manage to ruin that year in year out. It shouldn't be this hard.

JULIAN MCKENZIE: No. It really should not be.

AVRY LEWIS-MCDOUGALL: And people say [INAUDIBLE] going to be bad for it. Did you forget the Arab NHL on Versus? That put the rigger on the toilet.

ARUN SRINIVASAN: Oh, my God. (LAUGHS) Oh, my God. Yeah, I mean, I think all four of us live in cities where there's an extremely passionate fan base. But like if the Maple Leafs were ever to win or ever advance to a Cup Final, I promise you I'm not thinking, oh, we're the third largest market in the NHL. Like that is like maybe the 15th point that we'd brought up. I'm sure that'd be the same if the Canucks went to the Final or if the Oilers from the final or the Flames or have won the final.

Like, you know, would anyone be thinking about, oh wow, it's, so nice that a big market team advanced. I don't-- I don't-- I don't get it, man. I don't.