With the NHL going back into labor negotiations this year, it came to mind how decimated the league's popularity was in the wake of the 2004-2005 lockout, and how they've been building it back up to have the highest ratings in decades over the last few seasons. A number of things helped the league to rebuild:
In the same way, I see IndyCar moving in similar directions:
- Rules changes to increase scoring and make the game faster and more interesting.
- Several young, new stars (Crosby, Ovechkin, Kane, etc.) to promote and bring eyeballs.
- A greater amount of parity thanks to the salary cap.
- A good TV deal with a committed partner, even if they were ignored by ESPN.
- And by a stroke of luck, a run of success by teams considered core to the league in the US: Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Boston, etc.
It's important to remember that it took the NHL at least 6 years, from the end of the lockout (2005-2006 season) to the 2010-2011 season, to see the record numbers come and show that hockey still means something in this country. IndyCar, and it's fans, need to be at least as patient. There are no silver bullets, no Usains or Tigers (or Danicas), and no overnight popularity jumps. But I would contend that the sport is definitely on the right track, and while it may take time, and it may never get back to the early-90's glory days, it can still become a meaningful part of the national sports conversation once again.
- Rules changes to increase passing, make the cars faster (on road courses) and closer (on ovals) to make the racing more interesting.
- Several young, new stars (Rahal, Andretti, RHR, Hinchcliffe, etc.) to promote and bring eyeballs.
- A greater amount of parity thanks to the new car.
- A good TV with a committed partner, even if they are ignored/neglected by ESPN.
- And by a stroke of luck, an American is 2nd in points and is proving to be a challenge to the big 2.