SI Cover Story Highlights Growth Of NHL As League Finds Its "Happy Place"
The NHL this year has "found itself in a rare place" -- a "happy place," according to Michael Farber of SI. The magazine's most recent cover features the header, "Why The NHL's Hot And The NBA's Hot," which follows its famous '94 cover with the header, "Why The NHL's Hot And The NBA's Not." But the '94 cover and story "were aimed less at the NHL than at the NBA." Farber writes these are "good times" for the NHL. The Stanley Cup Playoffs "have been riveting" and the revenue stream "is flowing." The NHL last month "scored an off-ice hat trick" at the '14 Sports Business Awards when it was chosen League of the Year, Commissioner Gary Bettman was named Exec of the Year and the Jan. 1 Winter Classic was selected as event of the year. Now the league is "in the midst of a white-knuckle, big-market series" between the Kings and Rangers. A second Stanley Cup in three years is not "going to weave the Kings into the fabric of Southern California," but hockey has "found a niche in the L.A. market" as surely as it has in N.Y. Kings C Jarret Stoll said, "I think hockey's in a great place. Best I've seen it. ... The hockey's better. The ratings. The revenues. The attendance. And this year's playoffs have been incredible." The NHL's "hotness today stands on its own." But until "hell freezes over and everyone has to skate to the mini-mart, hockey will be that other sport, even if the NHL has grander aspirations." Kings President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille said, "That's the big difference now: Everything is big. It used to be everything was small. When we had an All-Star Game, we thought, keep it small. Now it's big events, outdoor games, HBO 24/7. Everyone's figured out, including the players, that this way they'll be making more money" (SI, 6/16 issue).