Ice guys finish last.

The stadium scene.
June 8 2006 3:20 PM

Ice Guys Finish Last

Why the NHL should stop wooing America.

(Continued from Page 1)

Moving the sport from one network to another isn't enough to cure pro hockey's ills. If the league wants to get serious about its long-term survival, it should eliminate several teams. I propose that we say goodbye to the entire Southeast Division. So long, Florida Panthers, we hardly knew ye.

My experience in Manhattan notwithstanding, there are a lot more casual puck-watchers up north. During Carolina's semifinal matchup against the Buffalo Sabres, hockey ratings in western New York were between three and seven times greater than in Raleigh. Ridding the league of the Hurricanes would keep those ratings-boosting Sabres fans in front of the tube. (Angry Hurricanes fans should note that I was conceived in Chapel Hill, N.C.) Then, maybe the hockey writers could find something else to write about. Like hockey.

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Sure, contraction will alienate some fans. Those six Carolinians I mentioned earlier, for instance. But I'm not worried about the hockey diehards. Know someone with a fanatical devotion to English Premier League soccer? Then you appreciate that true fans will hunt to the ends of the earth to find a way to watch their sport. They might even record a game off TV and watch it until the tape wears out if absolutely necessary. And what of your everyday yahoo, the kind who shows up in Raleigh just to hear Ric Flair's post-goal "Woooo!" on the Jumbotron? Well, when the hockey team skips town, he'll just have to find a new pastime. There's always pro wrestling, poker, and competitive barbecuing.

Chris Shott is a writer in New York.

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