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Lessons For the NHL

NBA needs to study the NHL

Can Branon Dubinsky lead the NHL?

Can Branon Dubinsky lead the NHL?

After the much publicized loss of Josh Childress to Olympiacos Piraeus, the NBA has been in shock as it seems more and more players are willing to take the Euro rather than dollar and play some place where they do not speak the language.

Analysis has broken down the contract situations, the value of the Euro, and tried to comfort the remaining NBA fans as they fear seeing their league pillaged by our neighbors across the Atlantic Ocean. The reality is that the move by Childress, a mid-level talent in all reality, is really about the loss of prestige the NBA is feeling.

The NBA was proud to be number three when it came to sports in the United States. It was part of an exclusive club. That club is now down to two. The NBA is still number two, but the average sports fan has stopped following basketball.

The league was hoping the Lakers-Celtics finals would simply bring back all the old fans from the golden age in the 1980s. The series brought back a lot of viewers, but whether they are going to stay is the question. If they see a player like Childress leave the NBA for a Greek team when the league is trying to convince that the game is back in force here.

The momentary rise in demand for Lakers tickets and Celtics tickets is something the NBA wants to maintain. The NBA does not want to suffer the way hockey has. The NHL was not as popular as the NBA when it went on strike in 1994, but it was a fourth major sports market. Now hockey may still be in fourth, but it’s a fourth that is closely followed by soccer, arena football, and whatever other alternative sport ESPN is showcasing.

The NHL still generates some interest when the Detroit Red Wings play in a major game or when a young star from the Pittsburgh Penguins remind the sports world why Wayne Gretzky was so amazing to watch. The league just has not been the same since. The abandonment of northern climates for southern spots where ice is a rarity outside the rink does not help.

The NHL also faced competition from Europe, specifically the Russian Super League for top talent. The RSL successfully recruited players form the homeland and the NHL responded by avoiding drafting them, adding legitimacy to the other league.

That model is what the NBA is afraid of. It is not nearly as frail as the NHL right now, but as more and more sports and more and more television outlets arise a fan can soon just as easily catch their favorite player on Olympiacos Piraeus as watch the local Bulls game.

The NBA’s reaction has been rather dismissive, but fans know how image conscious the league is and know the NBA front office is deeply concerned.

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