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Sports growth: the NHL should take a leaf out of the NBA’s book
The NHL needs to find solutions to better promote the sport of field hockey. And to do so, perhaps Gary Bettman should ask NBA commissioner Adam Silver for some advice.

I’ll explain.

Like the NHL, the NBA held its annual amateur draft in recent weeks. The first pick of the auction was Victor Wembanyama… And all basketball fans were eager to see him in action.

In summer, the NBA holds a league called the “Summer League”. It’s a league where the circuit’s top prospects are gathered, giving fans a chance to see young players in action.

But it also gives fans the chance to see their favorite team’s recent first-round pick play a real game of basketball, not too long after the draft. It’s a great opportunity to see these young players in game situations, to see how they perform on the court.

Wembanyama was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs. In the first game of the Summer League, Wemby had a relatively difficult outing… and basketball fans around the world wanted to see how he would fare in his second match-up.

The result?

1.39 million viewers opened their TVs, computers or cell phones to watch the game on ESPN alone.

By comparison, 1.8 million people watched the last NHL Winter Classic on TNT.

It’s a striking finding… all the more so given that this was a basketball game played in the middle of summer:

Every Blackhawks fan would love to see Connor Bedard play a game before training camp.

Any Canadiens fan would love to see David Reinbacher play a game before training camp.

Every Blackhawks fan would…

You see where I’m going with this.

But this is the NHL. We’re talking about a league that isn’t able to showcase its stars properly, and for it to be able to increase the sport’s popularity on the planet, there’s still a long way to go.

It’s not going to happen by playing two games in Europe every season. And it’s not going to happen by adding outdoor matches to the calendar either.

These are fine projects, to be sure. But in the end, the story remains the same.

It’s up to Gary Bettman to work with his colleagues to make the sport grow. There is a way, as they say.

In gusto

– Things are starting to heat up.

– First NHL contract for Coyotes prospect.

– This, too, is a fine example.

– For tennis fans:

– Bravo.

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