Originally Posted by SteelersCanada
The bottom half of the NHL is in southern states, for the most part. For example, the Lightning and Panthers aren't popular in Florida, yet Florida has two hockey teams. The Thrashers, which just moved back to Winnipeg, were the epitome on an unstable team without a market. The NHL has tried - and failed - to market to the southern United States. I don't know if the NHL will ever be popular in the south. It's just a cultural thing.
The north east and Canada is what keeps the NHL alive. There's no risk of "imploding" because hockey is immensely popular in the north eastern US and all of Canada. Up here, the NHL and NFL are so far ahead every other sport in terms of popularity it's a little silly. The NBA and MLB are just a blur to most Canadians. Now, you could very easily argue this is due to a lack of parity (especially in the NBA) but the stats speak for themselves. The NHL may have weak TV deals, but when you're marketing to states north of Kentucky, you're missing roughly 50% of the US.
Look, I love the NHL and am fairly aware of their demographics.
But if the question is 'which is the weakest/least popular of the major sports' then the answer has to be the NHL.
Even if the NFL 'imploded' and lost 1/2 of its popularity it would still be better off than the NHL.
The emergence of the KHL has syphoned off enough Russian talent (and should continue to), Gary Bettman is by far the worst commish in sports and the league continues to lag in revenues despite having the most talent quite possibly ever.
Niche fans (Canadians) should keep the sport alive, and there are so few fans (relatively speaking) so I guess the league can't really 'implode', but the NHL still seems like the most unstable league.