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By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Should they even worry about it?

I wouldn't. Just enjoy what you have and if a couple of more folks here and there like it and come along for the ride, well, that's good.

We're talking about the NHL playoffs and how seemingly everyone with a keyboard wonders and pontificates if ice hockey will ever truly catch on in the United States.

You know, maybe if the Boston Bruins play the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals, both coasts will be transfixed and become hockey lifers.

My answer to that is, who cares?

The NHL has the best playoffs of any North American sport and if only a finite amount of people tune in to see it, then so be it.

Ice hockey is also, by far, the best sport to see live. It's not even close once you go to a game and see how big and fast the players are. You just shake your head and are thankful it's not figure skating you're watching.

No matchup in the Stanley Cup Finals will be an elixir that solves all the problems. It just doesn't work that way (it could help a bit) but not solve everything.

Just look at the other sports for your proof.

Have you noticed the World Series ratings lately? Sure, they're great in the cities that have teams playing in it, but in other towns. the interest is dwindling.

And the NBA? What would league officials give to see the New York Knicks make the Finals? And when the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics get ousted early, there is a collective cringe.

We'll leave the NFL alone because it's just a giant. Meaningless preseason games draw huge numbers and any time a World Series game is up against an NFL regular-season game, the NFL just kicks baseball's butt.

What the NFL has that no other team sport has is a huge fan base that will watch anybody play, not just their beloved home team. As a league, you can't ask for anything more than that.

Now, the NHL's TV ratings are getting better and the league's deal with NBC is a good one. The games are on and, as always, exciting (Just a side note: Wouldn't it be nice if we could ditch the NHL regular season and just have the playoffs? Everybody in the pool. The team that wins five seven-game series gets the Cup. OK, I'll end this thought here, but it would be kind of cool).

If you look at what we have left in the Eastern and Western conferences, it's all good. The last four Stanley Cup champs are still alive, and for the hockey fan it doesn't really matter which two make it to the Cup Finals because each scenario has intrigue.

Boston has been dealing with the marathon tragedy, and if the Bruins can provide any kind of lift, that would be tremendous.

Pittsburgh offers Sidney Crosby, perhaps the most hated player in the league - and also the best (Another side note: Living in the Philadelphia area, you hear the sports talk radio hatred of "The Kid" all the time. In fact, I saw a guy the other day wearing a Sidney "Crybaby" T-shirt that mocked Crosby. So I asked the guy if he would want Crosby on the Flyers and he gushed, "Absolutely, he's great." Ah, dude, take the shirt off, you look stupid.)

Los Angeles trying to repeat as champion is really good stuff and the electricity of the crowds in Chicago makes watching the Blackhawks that much more fun.

It's all good all around if you just take it for what it is. It's not a boffo ratings deal, and it won't capture everyone's attention, but it will be riveting.

And who will win the conference titles and play for the Stanley Cup? Heck, I've been wrong so often in my predictions in this space that I can't remember the last time I got one right. Or even if I've gotten one right. That's a cop-out, but it's also the truth.

Let's wait and see what happens in the conference finals, and then I'll give you the wrong pick in the Cup Finals.

Copyright 2013