NBA? *Yawn* Let's watch some HOCKEY!

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Jamal is a friend of mine, first and foremost, but after reading his post about how the NHL sucks, I had to post a rebuttal for us hockey fans out there.

Gary Bettman was pretty high up in the NBA (senior VP) before he was hired as commish of the NHL. Many people hate the guy, but during his tenure, the revenues have increased five-fold. Some of his moves have been questionable (moving multiple teams from Canada to other places and the lockout/canceled season) but not every decision is going to be perfect. It may have worked to everyone’s advantage with the implementation of a salary cap which could mean that parity along the lines of the NFL *could* be possible. Plus, he has got to be the most accessible commissioner of all pro sports. His XM radio show (NHL Home Ice) allows people to call in and talk with him, or rip him a new one if they so choose.

First, I’d like to address the scheduling conflict. At first, I didn’t know what to think of it. After listening to Stoney and Wojo talk with Bettman, I had a much better understanding of the situation. During the interview, he said that the NHL scheduled the Stanley Cup finals a year ago. If that’s the case, then I'm guessing that the NBA scheduled their conference championship as well so the broadcasters could be ready and not preempt season finales. Why couldn’t the NBA flip flop the Eastern and Western championship series to accommodate? Why should the NHL have to accommodate the NBA when the NBA isn’t even in the championship round yet? If both teams played in the same arena, the NHL would get to play on the scheduled night because they are in the league championship. Hockey fans will watch the Red Wings while basketball fans will watch the Pistons. If you just root for the local team, the game that is more interesting is the one that you will watch if you aren’t flipping back and forth.

As for the whole NHL on Versus thing, the NBA has tons of games on TNT. What's the difference there? Both are cable channels. They did expand a little quickly, but they were trying to expand their fan base from the north/east coast/Canada into the south. How else would they allow a team from Minnesota, a perceived hockey state, to go down to Dallas?

If we want to talk about domination, we need to start with the Red Wings. They have made the playoffs 16 years in a row. 16! That’s the longest current streak in *all* pro sports. I’m not talking down about the Pistons, because six straight Eastern Conference Finals is nothing to scoff at. It’s quite a feat considering the parity of the Eastern Conference in that time. Joe Dumars is a fantastic GM and had done right by Detroit during his tenure as a player and GM. Ken Holland and Jimmy Devellano have built the Red Wings organization (under the direction of the big cheese, Mike Illitch) into a constant contender that has players that sometimes sign contracts for less money than open market value just to stay in the organization. No team has signed and helped Europeans/Russians assimilate into the NHL and the community better than Holland/Devellano/Mike and Marian Illitch. At least we can debate if Joey D or Ken Holland is the best GM in Detroit if not all of their prospective sports. Their track record is much better than Matt Millen.

Plus, hockey is way more interesting to watch than basketball will ever be...as soon as casual fans understand offside calls. Hockey players are among the toughest in all sports. Football players slam each other pretty hard, but hockey players will take a stick to the face, leave for five minutes to get stitches, and be back for their next shift. How many basketball players lose teeth and still smile for the camera? Basketball players don’t take the pounding that NHL players take on a daily basis. Even with their protective gear, you could still take a skate or a stick in the face. The NBA is way more popular than hockey is, but what park doesn’t have a hoop? What is the cost to get into playing hockey? The NHL under the direction of Gary Bettman has made strides and taken their lumps. I don’t know if they will ever reach the popularity that the NBA enjoys, but I’ll always ask the bartender to flip over to the Wings rather than watch basketball.