A Happy NHL
Those of us north of the U.S.-Canada border may lament the exodus of each and every Canadian-based squad from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
We may lament the fact its going to be at least 16 years between Canadian Cup winners.
We may be thinking already about turning the dial over to the world championships in Halifax and Quebec City.
But in Gary Bettman's NHL headquarters, there has to be a celebratory atmosphere in the air.
After three consecutive Stanley Cup finals featuring either small Canadian markets or U.S. markets in which hockey barely registers - Tampa Bay-Calgary, Edmonton-Carolina, Anaheim-Ottawa - the NHL has a chance for the first time in the post-lockout era to hit a home run this spring in the conference finals and Cup final.
The teams remaining are all among the top U.S. television markets, and they are all pretty strong cities for hockey as well, or at least cities with long traditions in the game.
Philadelphia represents the fourth largest TV viewing area in the U.S., followed by Dallas (No. 5), Detroit (No. 11) and Pittsburgh (No. 22).
Of those four, obviously the Penguins would be the ideal finalist, for that team features the league's No. 1 individual marketing tool in Sidney Crosby. The league's determination to keep that franchise in Pittsburgh, with a new arena coming on stream, has certainly paid off.
A Penguin-Red Wings final would be glamourous, a chance for a boffo conclusion to the season. The least glamorous matchup would be Dallas-Philly, but even that would deliver two major TV markets for the NHL.
For Canadians, the choice will be whether the worlds and a Canadian team stacked with quality players offers more appeal.
The NHL hopes not. But you have to believe it's more interested in the opportunity at hand to generate major interest in the U.S. for the first time in a long time.