It’s thoroughly stupefying in this day and age that the NHL is somehow still not considered by anyone to be one of the “four major team sports” in the United States.
But then again today we’re talking about dopey talking head Max Kellerman, who is a boxing guy, of all things, by trade. There’s zero measure of what actual sports knowledge he’s ever brought to the table aside from the low-hanging fruit of bashing Tom Brady.
Clearly Kellerman knows a thing or two about an irrelevant sport given his boxing background, but somebody should perhaps clue him in that the NHL is a $5 billion-plus business with the preponderance of that business being done in the USA with 24 of the 31 teams located in America.
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“I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but in the United States of America nobody cares about hockey,” said ESPN’s Max Kellerman while appearing on "First Take" on Wednesday. “The old joke is every town has 20,000 hockey fans because they all have season tickets. The arenas are always sold out, but the TV ratings don’t do anything. So it’s not one of the four major team sports.”
I don’t want to hurt Max Kellerman’s feelings, but who the hell is Max Kellerman besides a super duper poor man’s Larry Merchant?
Certainly, there are pockets of the U.S. where hockey isn't huge, particularly in southern cities where there isn’t any NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL sports team representation, and where college sports are treated like the pros. There is always some national interest in the NCAA around college bowl time or March Madness, but that’s about it.
Does anybody who actually lives in a major metropolitan U.S. city consider NCAA sports more of a “major team sport” in the U.S. above and beyond the world of the NHL?
Has Kellerman ever heard of NHL superstars like Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin who play in U.S. markets as iconic household names with national endorsement deals and pop culture crossover appeal?
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins were all pegged with values over $1 billion according to Forbes Magazine and they were joined by Canadian billion dollar hockey clubs in Montreal and Toronto as well.
That sounds like a lot more than 20,000 fans scattered around those cities, doesn’t it?
Let’s be honest here.
Clearly Kellerman knows nothing about the NHL or hockey and is resorting to tired old clichés when talking about the league.
He’s clamoring for attention given that he’s been saying for years that Tom Brady was “falling off a cliff” and that TB12 was the worst QB in the NFL playoff fields in years that New England then went on to win the Super Bowl. If you keep saying it each and every year then the law of averages dictate you’ll finally get it right at some point, right?
He was roundly mocked as a bozo complete with a clown nose for that take, and this NHL bashing is a variation on that same bombastic, look-at-me theme.
And he’s working at the perfect place for it given the short shrift that ESPN has always ludicrously given to the hockey world once they no longer had a TV deal with the National Hockey League.
But the NHL is one of the four major team sports in the U.S. as well as in Canada, and takes its position alongside the NFL that is still king, an NBA that has grown exponentially in popularity over the last 40 years and a dying business of Major League Baseball that might be dealing itself a fatal blow with its foolhardy inability to get back on the field since the COVID-19 outbreak.
The NHL has a national television deal with NBC and it has thriving fan bases in non-traditional markets like Nashville, Las Vegas and Tampa Bay because their teams have made it to the Stanley Cup Final in recent years. Who can forget the 2017 Stanley Cup Final in Music City where a who’s who of celebrities and country western superstars turned the games in Nashville into big-time events from a national perspective?
The Stanley Cup Playoffs remain the most captivating and attention-grabbing of all the postseasons run by any of the four major pro sports, and the Winter Classic has proven to be a ratings-grabbing national event in the prime New Year’s Day television-watching spot. That’s why genuinely talented and entertaining American sports talking heads like Charles Barkley have been preaching the gospel of NHL hockey for years and years.
You won’t hear any of that from Kellerman, or his piping hot hockey takes, while he patiently waits for his preferred sport of boxing to return after not being anything close to a major sport since Mike Tyson was heavyweight champ 30 years ago.
Stick to the Tom Brady bashing, Max, or hope and pray that the world of boxing becomes barely relevant again sometime soon.