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A year ago, there was giddy anticipation at the return of hockey after a labor dispute scuttled the entire 2004-05 season.

That enthusiasm, shot through with anxiety about what the game would look like and how fans would respond, was rewarded with a return that can best be described as stunning.

In spite of dire predictions, new rules and unprecedented levels of enforcement on existing rules saw goal-scoring jump 18 percent from the 2003-04 season, the largest jump in offense in 75 years. There were more 50-goal scorers and 100-point producers than any one year in the previous decade. The rookie crop, led by Calder Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin and including Sidney Crosby, Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Miller and Dion Phaneuf, was the strongest in memory. The playoffs produced compelling storylines and finished with an emotional seven-game finals series in which Carolina prevailed to win its first Stanley Cup. True, only a handful of American fans watched the series outside the Raleigh area, but at its most basic level, the hockey was dynamic.

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Hockey minor in major U.S. markets
TV, newspapers reduce coverage
'A niche sport' says editor in L.A.
Sep. 27, 2006. 01:00 AM
CHRIS ZELKOVICH
SPORTS MEDIA WRITER

With a new season set to open next week, the National Hockey League is facing a new challenge to avoid hockey being dismissed as a minor sport in many major American markets.

U.S. TV ratings for the NHL hit an all-time low last season and newspapers in the league's two largest markets, New York and Los Angeles, have either decided against sending reporters on the road with their home teams or are considering doing so.

"In our market, it is a niche sport," Los Angeles Times sports editor Randy Harvey told a Philadelphia newspaper recently. The Times has decided not to travel with either the Kings or the Anaheim Ducks and says the season-long lockout in 2004-05 contributed to the lack of interest.

The reduction in coverage follows a Stanley Cup final in June covered by reporters from only 17 of the league's 30 cities.

``It was probably the poorest representation that I can remember in my 30 years here," says New York Post hockey writer Larry Brooks, past-president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
TheStar.com - Hockey minor in major U.S. markets
 
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