But even a gangbusters enterprise like pro sports is no guarantee of financial success, and once again filling the role of cautionary example to everyone else is the National Hockey League, which this weekend locked out its players for the third time since 1994.
If you recall, the NHL in the spring of 1994 was like Will Smith in Bel-Air — right where you wanted to be. A labor dispute was in the process of killing pro baseball and, in what I consider a personal shame that was nonetheless a big achievement for the NHL, the Stanley Cup came to Broadway, putting a very big spotlight on the league. That shining moment was followed by a labor strife-shortened season and, a decade later, the NHL canceled the entire 2004-05 season, by which point the mainstream was far more interested in NASCAR and the world series of poker than it was ice hockey.
The NHL promised it would be a different game when it returned, and to do so, trotted out a series of much-maligned advertisements likening the game to some kind of contest between barbarian ninjas waited on hand and foot by a harem of sex objects. However, the game's popularity has at least pushed it to the point where it's a $3 billion enterprise, and locally, having another epic conference final between the Devils and Rangers did wonders for the game's popularity. Expect the latest round of millionaires vs. billionaires to put a quick stop to that.