Breaking Sports

Saturday, July 09, 2005

nhl- NY teams Key to NHL

from the NY Times (Sunday edition and reg. req.), With an end to the National Hockey League lockout a mere formality - the announcement of a new collective bargaining agreement is expected this week - the main question now facing the league is whether it can win back its fans and corporate support.
And after that, how to mold the N.H.L. into a sports league that is again relevant.
"It's going to take time and a lot of work," Wayne Gretzky, now a managing partner of the Phoenix Coyotes, said in a telephone interview Friday. "We have to do a tremendous amount of selling of the game."
Having a strong franchise in New York City might make for a good start.
The Rangers have not qualified for the playoffs since the 1996-97 season, and the N.H.L.'s popularity has been in steady decline since peaking in 1994, when the Rangers won their only Stanley Cup since 1940.
Many, though not all, sports executives would say that is not a coincidence.
As Gretzky, who retired as a player after the 1998-99 season after spending his final three seasons with the Rangers, said, "It's always in the best interest of any sport when one of the franchises in New York is successful."...continued...