Filling in at a hockey blog in the middle of June. Brilliant! Last time I filled in here it was February, when there was, you know, hockey. Right now on NHL.com the top headline is that Ryan Suter just signed a four year deal with the Predators. Somehow, I still find the NHL offseason more entertaining than the NBA Finals.
But if we're going to sit around and talk hockey, let's talk hockey. This is a question that crops up for me pretty much all the time. We're mostly aware of the East Coast Bias in most sports, what with most media outlets being headquartered out there. Additionally, talent seems to be attracted to certain cities across the Eastern Seaboard, and to a lesser extent, southern California because that's where the money (and attention) mostly is.
Why isn't this the case in hockey? I would expect the bias to be more pervasive, given that so much talent comes from overseas. Really, why would someone come from Slovakia to play in Raleigh voluntarily? Is that some sort of Slovakian dream I'm unaware of? I would expect many Europeans to try to get to New York or Los Angeles or Boston or, you know, a city their family had heard of. I'm not saying that Europeans are ignorant, but I doubt anything more than 25% of the European population has heard of Buffalo.
One of the prime examples of the confusion, for me anyways, is Niklas Lidstrom, who has spent his entire career in Detroit. How did that happen? Didn't he do any research on the subject before coming to America and set his sites on New York or LA? Again, I'm not saying that Detroit is necessarily a bad city, but it has a bad reputation. If anyone in the Lidstrom clan back in Vasteras had heard of Detroit, they probably feared for his life. I have to imagine that early in his career, he was receiving a lot of pressure from his Swedish friends to try for a more glamorous city (Being Swedish myself, I can assure you that the pressure was really passive-aggressive). Credit Lidstrom for realizing his title chances were best in Detroit, or, just as likely, finding Detroit a wonderful place to live. Believe it or not, Motown has suburbs too.
I think, too, many Europeans would like to see the melting pot of America. You know, the varying culture that one expects when throwing people from all different backgrounds into a large city. You've got your Chinatowns like in San Francisco, and your Little Italys like in New York, which only provide to the intrigue of these American cities, especially, I'm sure, to tourists and people from out of town. How did Marian Gaborik feel upon arriving in the Twin Cities the first time, only to find out that there was more diversity in Bratislava?
I'm mostly just thinking out loud here. I'm not trying to badmouth any smaller market cities. Quite the contrary; I think the NHL, if anything is doing more to establish a positive reputation for a lot of smaller cities in European minds. Hopefully, Lidstrom's willingness to stick around in Detroit leads to a booming Swede based tourist industry in Detroit. Maybe Austrians now keep tabs on news from Buffalo because of Thomas Vanek. Maybe Gaborik has realized that there is diversity in Minneapolis (both Swedes AND Norwegians!). Maybe a huge Marek Zidlicky fan just checked the NHL site from Prague and got really excited that Ryan Suter is staying in Nashville.