The Opossum-Palooza

It's okay. We don't know what the name means either.

6.06.2006

Stanley Goes South

Much has been made of the fact that the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals are being played in North Carolina, and it got me thinking. Is it really that bad for the league to have the Stanley Cup travel south of the Mason-Dixon line two seasons in a row? Obviously, it isn't helping television ratings at a time when the NHL is desperately seeking legitimacy. In the long term, however, it could prove to be somewhat beneficial to have teams like the Lightning and the Hurricanes winning Stanley Cups now, at least as long as the NHL plans on keeping those teams in place.

Ten years ago, if you'd have asked the average North Carolinian anything about ice hockey, you'd likely have been met with a blank stare. Now that their team has gone to two Stanley Cup Finals in four years, I'd be willing to bet that the game is at least a little more popular down there than it used to be. The same being true of Tampa, FL. How many kids that might have taken up football or baseball instead decided to try out ice hockey after being enthralled by watching their home team lift the most famous trophy in sports over their heads? Will it have enough of an effect to justify the cost of having teams in seemingly un-hockey-friendly places such as Nashville and Miami while places like Winnepeg and Quebec toil in NHL-less limbo?

I'm sure I don't actually know, but here's hoping that the success of the Southeast division proves a harbinger of good things to come for the NHL.

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