Booming NHL ready for big steps forward

Updated: April 8, 2013, 11:46 AM ET
By Craig Custance

This season, just returning to the ice was enough to generate huge interest in the NHL. After a long lockout, fans returned to the NHL in a big way and on Sunday following his (second) Detroit Winter Classic announcement, Gary Bettman pointed out that every basic measurable metric for fan interest is strong. The league is playing at a 97 percent capacity, attendance-wise. Television ratings in Canada and the U.S. are up -- with every regional television partner but one showing increased ratings. And some of the numbers are pretty impressive, as highlighted by NHL COO John Collins.

"Some markets, they're record ratings. The Chicago Blackhawks -- their regional ratings are approaching the Michael Jordan Bulls ratings," Collins said. "In a lot of markets where you have a hockey team and a basketball team, hockey is out-rating. In Boston and Philadelphia -- there's some big markets where that's the case."

The league almost doubled its subscriptions to NHL GameCenter Live, which allows fans to stream games live over the Internet. It came with a big discount because of the shortened season, but Collins said there's close to 250,000 subscribers this season.

All this, just by turning on the lights and signing a new CBA.