The NHL preseason started Monday night. There are probably less than a hundred people on this campus who even care about this and I might not even be one of them, depending on what you mean by the word “care.”
I mean as a fan of the Buffalo Sabres and the NHL, I’m certainly excited that the start of the NHL season is only a few weeks away. And I’d certainly like the Sabres to get off to a good start. But I’m not going to go rush out and start subscribing to Time Warner just to catch a couple exhibition hockey games. And whether you’re a diehard hockey nut or you can’t name any current NHL players besides Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, chances are you probably feel the same way too.
This type of reaction to the preseason is actually pretty common in sports or at least the sports that have preseasons. The 2011-2012 NBA season is in grave danger of being lost to a lockout and its preseason games, which usually start in October, will probably be canceled even if there’s an NBA season this year after all. But nobody will really notice until November, when the regular season usually starts, because no one notices the NBA preseason.
True, pitchers and catchers reporting for the start of MLB spring training is a time-honored sports cliche. But how many non-diehard baseball fans actually watch preseason baseball? Until the 1990’s, baseball’s preseason at least had the novelty factor of being the only time outside of the All-Star Game or the World Series where players from the AL faced players from the NL. But then in 1997, MLB introduced interleague play and that tradition lost its novelty too.
Which is why you’ve got to hand it to the NFL. Season ticketholders might complain about having to pay full price to attend NFL preseason games and major TV networks like ABC and NBC probably wouldn’t broadcast so many of those games if there weren’t almost nothing else to air in August. But how many other leagues are able to even get so many fans into the stands or games onto the airwaves before Opening Day?