Being a fan of both the NHL and the MLS, so when I saw the title ("NHL Should Take Lessons From MLS") of this post on Off Wing Opinion, I was surprised. The post focuses on how the NHL refusal to break up the division-centric schedule that it now has prevents a lot of the league's biggest stars from being seen. The MLS, on the other hand, has guaranteed that their main attraction, David Beckham, will be seen in every MLS city and for those who can't attend, almost all his games will be televised. As a Blackhawks fan, I know how true this is as neither of the league's two biggest stars, Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, will be making an appearance at the United Center this season. While it makes it easier for me not having to see Ovie making an appearance on the west side (I love the Caps, a Hawks vs. Capitals Stanley Cup (I know how absolutely, totally unimaginable this is) would probably kill me), for your average fan in Chicago the decision to go or not to go to the UC is based just as much (if not more) on the opposition as it is on a desire to see the Hawks.

Anyways, the reason why I found the title so surprising is because fans of the MLS have long set their sights on the NHL, believing that with good marketing and more access to fans, the league could surpass the post-lockout "new" NHL. In a market like Chicago, there is very close competition between Fire (MLS) and Blackhawks attendance figures. Of course there is also the issue of TV deals: for the first time in the league's history, the MLS is getting paid for their TV rights and their games will be featured on ESPN2, while the NHL is stuck on the Outdoor Life Network Versus, a channel many people don't even know they have. Also, some of the NHL TV matchups seem a bit unusual like the Hawks and Columbus this past weekend on NBC or Philly and Boston next week on Versus (I shouldn't complain because Ovie and Sid the Kid will be on NBC this weekend, a great choice). While those other picks seem to be focused on local rivalries that are definitely worth promoting, when none of those teams are in the playoff picture right now, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Perhaps if I left Chicago more and saw how the league is in other cities I could experience the renaissance of the "new" NHL that I've heard so much about. The NHL's commercials (examples of the two newest (both are VERY funny) can be found here and here) are far, far better than the MLS' marketing campaign from last season focused on "Embracing the Colors" (an example can be found here). Also, though Becks is a world famous player, he's nearing the end of his career, while the NHL superstars are all young, most of them are barely old enough to drink legally (or, like Crosby, still can't drink). The NHL is the elite league in the world, where all the stars want to come and play, but the MLS only serves as a take off point for young American stars before they go off to bigger and better things in Europe. Even the Chicago market can be saved with a decent free agent pickup or two and finally putting out a winning team.

On the subject of free agent pickups, rumors have floated around that Dale Tallon may be on the hot seat. I have a soft spot for Tallon, having listened to him alongside longtime partner Pat Foley for so long and I believe he's done a pretty good job. The ultimate sign of how capable Tallon is will be what he does in the leadup to the trade deadline. I'd be more than happy to see Aucoin leave Chicago, I still can't understand how he got the Captain's C without having ever played for the Hawks. Getting rid of Cullimore would be fantastic, too, even if we only get a pair of skates and a stick in return for him (neither are things he used very well anyways) as his mistakes have cost us more than a few games this year.

Speaking of Chicago's losing ways, it appears that once again there's no hope the Hawks can make the playoffs, as things stand today, the Hawks sit 15 points behind 8th place, having played a game less than the 8th place team du jour, Minnesota. I've been a Hawks fan for most of my life and the past 15 years it has not been a good relationship. My devotion for the Caps doesn't go back as far as the devotion to the Hawks, but it has been equally frustrating. Therefore, when I saw this post by Caps Chick, I could feel her frustration, for all you sports lovers out there, its the perfect (almost) Valentine's Day post to a team that once again is breaking your heart.

Tomorrow night the Hawks are away at Pittsburgh, so it will be a rare opportunity for Hawks fans to see Sid and hopefully their success on this roadtrip will continue.

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