Max Kellerman is very good at his job. Having strong opinions and being comfortable trolling are two assets of being a successful sports pundit.
So, when Kellerman recently said on ESPN’s “First Take”, “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but in the United States of America, nobody cares about hockey. The old joke is every town has 20,000 hockey fans because they all have season tickets. The arenas are always sold out, but the TV ratings don’t do anything. So it’s not one of the four major team sports”. At that point, the hockey cognoscenti blew a collective gasket.
But what Kellerman said is not inaccurate. If we are to objectively rank team sports in the United States, the NHL would come in sixth behind: the NFL, College Football, the NBA, Major League Baseball and College Basketball.
All five of those sports have a much larger national reach than the NHL while creating more revenue.
The NFL is in a class by itself in terms of popularity and financial impact. It dominates an entire day of the week. In a given year 90 percent of the top-rated TV shows are NFL games.
College Football may not be popular in New England, but in most other areas it borders on religion. The National Championship Game between LSU & Clemson drew over 25 million viewers.
While Baseball has its issues, many self-inflicted, it still grosses $10.5 billion per year which is double the financial footprint of the NHL. The 2019 World Series averaged 14 million viewers per game compared to only 5.3 million viewers for the Stanley Cup Final between the Bruins and Blues. Baseball, like Hockey, is more of a regional sport. Just two to three times more popular.
While the one and done rule has hurt college basketball, March Madness is still one of the best and most anticipated events on the sports calendar. Last year’s National Championship Game between Texas Tech and Virginia attracted 16 million viewers.
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Hockey is a fabulous sport.
Its players are among the most accommodating and socially active of all athletes. You can love a sport and realize that it doesn’t have a national platform while being more of a regional sport.
Daniel Day-Lewis is my favorite actor and in my humble opinion the greatest actor ever. But I realize that Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Brad Pitt are more bankable stars.
Max Kellerman was accurate with his take. Don’t shoot the messenger.
John Sapochetti is Co-Host
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