Apparently, not everyone does.
The ratings are in from the US-side of the NHL story.....and if it were a horse, it would have been shot a long time ago. Not only did the final numbers come in for the first year of OLN at 0.2 (or 164,000 viewers) on average, but the early returns for the playoffs on NBC is just as pathetic. The Carolina/New Jersey game on Saturday got a 1.1 rating, while the Colorado/Anaheim game on Sunday got a 0.9 rating. To show how bad it is-- these games got beat by taped NCAA Gymnastic and a "shoot your age" golf tournament. Really-- they have those.
Even when ESPN carried the NHL, it wasn't really the biggest draw; but at least the people were able to see it. OLN has been draped in black-outs, contract controversy, and bad production value for it's first season. For one reason or another, and this could come as a shot, many Americans don't like hockey. Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi and Sun Media's Al Strachan have it pretty much down to a "T".
But why though?? USA Hockey has a record number of kids signed up for youth hockey, the talent pool coming out of the US is amazing. Yet, for one reason or another, people can't stand watching it. Is it because of the fact that the rules and everything is too hard to pick-up for casual fans?? Is it because they don't know enough about the game?? Is it because OLN's coverage has been so atrocious that they get motion sickness trying to watch?? For the playoffs, is it because all the big, "sexy" teams like the Red Wings, Flyers, and Rangers are out so early??
We'll just have to wait until it's all said and done before we really start to point fingers at what went wrong with the NHL's TV deals. One interesting point is Kevin Dupont's article about what teams would be good for the NHL's ratings with the "sexy" teams out of it. He does have a point with California being the best for the TV viewing, and with the Ducks through, the Sharks just need to beat Edmonton to assure one California team is in it.
Personally, living in Canada has really gotten me spoiled. There's hockey on almost every night, hockey is always talked about on the sports channels, and it's just a hockey nirvana for me. Living in Maryland, if you didn't have Center Ice, you either had to watch the Red Wings all the time on ESPN or deal with the Caps rebuilding. After a while, you almost get tired of it. That's what could be the problem-- people getting tired of the same old, same old-- while teams with great players aren't getting the TV time they have earned through the season.
It's just me, but if the NHL can't get back on ESPN-- it could be a long, long time before the NHL get the big ratings they want to have.