National Hockey League is losing its touch

Ratings are on a rapid decline.


Atreyu Hinckley

For the longest time, I could not find anyone who watched hockey. Many of the people who I went to school with didn’t have a clue about how the sport worked, let alone where the games were aired. 

In the 2010s, the San Jose Sharks dominantly represented the Bay Area within the National Hockey League. Although they didn’t win any of the Stanley Cup trophies, they made a fair share of playoff appearances. 

Unfortunately, due to the far more notable success of their fellow Bay Area teams, the Sharks and their achievements were ultimately overshadowed. The San Francisco Giants won three World Series championships in Major League Baseball, the San Francisco 49ers made three postseason appearances and one Super Bowl appearance in the National Football League and the Golden State Warriors won three championships in the National Basketball Association throughout the 2010s. It’s a shame because the Sharks were a fun team to watch for me and there wasn’t anyone to talk to about it. Of course now with the Sharks struggling it isn’t getting any better for the sport.

One may have expected that the COVID-19 pandemic would’ve played a part in helping the sport’s rise in viewership since many people who were stuck in quarantine might have decided to finally give the sport a watch. However, Hockey’s view count dropped an astonishing 61% from the previous year in the 2020 season. It went up 2% in 2021, but to dip in more than half of a total view count in just a year is alarming. This begs the question, what might have caused it?

For me, hockey’s upside is that it is fast-paced and low-scoring. It can be compared to how soccer works when it comes to scoring, goal blocking and how they call fouls. But to compare the NHL to soccer would get you a lot of backlash with how dedicated soccer fans are.

The other thing I consider fun about Hockey is the fact that the referees let players duke it out via fist fighting if both players consensually throw their gloves and hockey sticks down. Now is there really any point to this? Of course not, especially since both those players would be put in the penalty box for multiple minutes after the fact, similar to putting a kid in the corner for misbehaving. But it just makes me feel like the players are more passionate about the sport when these moments happen.

One interesting thing to point out is the comparison of how players are paid in the NHL compared to say a player from the NFL. The highest-paid NHL player is Edmonton Oiler’s Connor McDavid, who makes $100 million in eight years. In retrospect, Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers in the NFL, is getting paid $200 million, $150 million guaranteed, in the next four years. Rodgers is being paid more in half the time than McDavid. That is another thing that shows that Hockey players are into the game more than the money.

One thing that doesn’t help the NHL is the time the season starts, which is right around the time both the NFL and the NBA begin, and the postseason for the MLB begins. The timing for all of these sports’ airtime overshadows the NHL, and it makes one wonder if the NHL were to change the time these start their seasons, would it make a difference in their ratings?

The decline in viewership for the NHL is a travesty. This is one of the sports that I feel that more people should talk about, or at least give it a chance. Hopefully, in the near future, the NHL can rebound in its viewership.