The NHL is in a lockout... again. After missing the entire 2004 season and seeing hockey fade into the shadows of the American sporting culture, the NHL's comeback has been impressive. The league divorced with ESPN and has built a fruitful partnership with NBC. In recent years, the NHL has seen some of the best Stanley Cup ratings in over a generation and stars and teams the league can build around.
So, NHL owners did the sensible thing and locked out their players. Why? I haven't quite figured that out yet. Because they want to suck every penny they can out of players and fans? Because they loathe themselves and their own success? Because Gary Bettman and the league's owners are actually evil vampires? If you read the post-lockout statement from the NHL, things have never been better for the league... which makes the timing of the latest NHL lockout an awesome idea.
The lockout is terrible for the NHL and equally as bad for NBC Sports. NBC and NBCSN have over 100 regular season games scheduled for the 2012-2013 season. Beyond Sunday Night Football, the NHL is NBC's only footprint in the four major pro sports. The league forms the backbone of NBCSN as well.
But while pessimism abounds once again, we're here to provide sporting alternatives to the NHL for NBC to get them through those cold, depressing winter months. There are actually several leagues and compettions around the globe just waiting for NBC to show them to an American audience. Who knows, maybe one of these leagues will surpass the NHL in popularity...