There’s a Time magazine post that’s been floating around, and because Mondays tend to be the day of the week when I clean house, it provides me fodder for a “shooting fish in a barrel” type post.
The article is entitled, “Why Soccer Threatens the NHL.”
Author Bill Saporito uses the LA Galaxy’s MLS Cup win as a launch pad to tear strips off the lockout-embattled National Hockey League (or ‘ice hockey,’ you European effetes!). He writes:
The growth of MLS in the U.S. and Canada, and the characteristics of the fan base say a lot about the future of the game. “The demographics don’t lie: our two countries have become soccer nations,” said Garber. Those same demographics—more Hispanic, less white— are a warning sign to the NHL, which apparently believes it can abuse its fans without consequences. MLS is growing because it has nurtured its fan base. It had to, given that MLS was essentially selling a foreign product in its early days. But that is no longer true. Global football is our ball.
Some common misconceptions here. First, the notion that fans only watch one sport at a time. Soccer is growing in popularity in North America, particularly among the 12-24 demographic, but this doesn’t automatically mean hockey “loses” those fans to soccer. Sports fans are notoriously capable of watching more than one sport, and indeed hockey and football—complex team invasion sports—are cousins. Often they kiss.
Second, Saporito confuses the popularity of professional soccer in North America with the popularity of MLS. While the stands are full, the TV ratings for MLS are well below ratings for the Premier League and the Champions League. TV rights, along with commercial revenues, are what generate the bulk of turnover for most established North American pro sports leagues. The NHL is vastly ahead of MLS in that key area, and likely will be as long as Europe provides a superior product.
Third, Saporito makes the ludicrous claim that the Toronto FC/Montreal Impact ‘rivalry’ could offset the one between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. All that says to me is that Saporito doesn’t know much about Canadian hockey, nor has bothered to study key differences in TV ratings. But that fruit hangs far too low. The more important point, and the one I think he was trying to make, was that it could potentially overtake the hockey rivalry one day in theory. Yet again, this presupposes those fans at BMO Field or Stade Saputo are incapable or unwilling to watch hockey on TV. Which is patently not the case.
So no, at least for now, the NHL need not fear MLS.