Puck Daddy ‘On the DL' and whether ESPN could help the NHL

From the Dept. of Self-Congratulatory Nonsense: Dan Levy's "On The DL" podcast has been on our playlist for some time because it features fascinating guests and the kind of questions and banter that make for great sports radio ... instead of the crap that passes for sports radio these days.

Even after crushing Levy on the Joe Sports Fan "Wiffle ball" roundtable (download the .mp3) with references to Dolph Lundgren's "I Come In Peace" and Man-E-Faces from "He-Man," it was an honor to appear on his podcast today for a half-hour chat about hockey and various other tangents.

(WARNING: I was asked a question about comparing Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and who the better player is. AGAIN: There is a Sidney Crosby question asked, and answered, within the podcast. SERIOUSLY: If you're one those chosen few readers that are blissfully unaware of the totality of our coverage and believe all we write about is Sidney Crosby, you may want to avoid this podcast because it discusses Sidney Crosby. Thank you.)

Listen to "On The DL" here. It's a good chat that touches on what a lot of non-hockey fans think about when it comes to the NHL: Sidney and Ovie, the attendance issues, the media coverage and, of course, hockey on television.

The boys bring up, in a roundabout way, something rather interesting to consider about the NHL's possible return to ESPN down the line: Would reuniting with the World Wide Leader, at this time in League history, be a validation to casual hockey fans that hockey is worthy of their attention again?

Hockey's popularity is surging. That's a fact.

But in growing the audience, reaching new fans in the mainstream ... is the time right for an endorsement from ESPN?

We've had explosions of popularity in Boston, DC and Chicago, and it's not hard to think that Los Angeles could be next in the coming years; we have two crossover superstars; and we have a product that, on a nightly basis, is providing more consistent entertainment than it has in perhaps the last 15 years.

The NHL doesn't need to be on ESPN to be a successful professional league. That's already been proven, without a second thought. And ESPN is never going to treat hockey with the reverence we feel it deserves; god forbid blackjack or old maid get a Texas Hold'em accessibility, because then hockey would tossed in the trash once more. (Then again, where is that nightly highlights show on Versus, huh?) 

But assuming there's a contractual way for it to happen, would a return to ESPN at this juncture mean hockey's best chance to break through to mainstream fans?

Or is that notion just a puckhead pipe dream in the first place?

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