The Big Four

Fair or Foul?


Marlin Levison

Images like this are slowly fading away as the National Hockey League slowly falls out of relevance.

Steven Bettler, Staff Writer

Baseball, basketball, football, and hockey are generally recognized as the four major sports in America, but this list may need to be revised. Over the past two decades, hockey has fallen out of favor with the American people. The last time that hockey was truly relevant to Americans was the “Miracle on Ice,” and it is fair to say that it has not mattered since that patriotic moment in February of 1980.

Hockey has become the red-headed stepchild of professional sports in America. In Canada and Europe, it is as popular as ever, but here in the States, it is all but dead. Many people are not even aware if there is a professional hockey team in their own city.

There are a variety of reasons for this, and without a doubt the biggest is that hockey is a pure winter sport. Hockey cannot be played under professional conditions by kids unless they have an ice rink nearby, or a frozen lake. That limits the time during which the sport can be played to just a few short months.

Basketball can be played year-round due to its indoor playing conditions. Baseball is a spring, summer, and fall sport, and it is not impossible to play in the winter. (There are winter leagues peppered all over the country). Football is played year-round as well.

Hockey is also not easy to get started outside of an established league. The other three major sports do not have this problem. At almost any given time, one could simply drive past a park and see a pick-up game of football or basketball, and even occasionally baseball.

Hockey has almost no appeal in the States to any region outside of the north. Football and basketball are both incredibly popular across the country, and their seasons overlap with that of hockey, leaving kids to make a choice between the three major winter sports, and the choice is not typically hockey.

That answers why kids are not playing it, but what about people watching hockey? Why are people not watching hockey anymore? Look no further than the commissioner of the National Hockey League, Gary Bettman.

Bettman is widely regarded as the worst commissioner in professional sports today. Under his “leadership,” the NHL has experienced two lockouts, and has also failed to gain a TV contract for two seasons, causing hockey to nearly fall completely off of cable television during that time. Even ESPN only mentioned it during the playoffs.

Beyond just leadership and appeal is the fact that there is no real American hockey hero, past or present. Michael Jordan is an American basketball icon. The same can be said for Joe Montana and Brett Farve in football. Baseball has heroes that go as far back as Babe Ruth and as recent as Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter.

Mike Modano is likely the greatest American hockey player of all-time. Considering that most people have never even heard that name before, it is fair to say that he is not an American sports legend.

Hockey is not dead, but it is slowly dying. Little hope still remains for hockey rivaling the NFL or NBA for viewership or merchandise sales. Baseball is not going anywhere soon, and baseball has virtually no competition as it is the only major sport played through the entire summer. Hockey will live forever in Europe and Canada, but here in the United States, the demise of the NHL is fast approaching.