Over the years, hockey's popularity as a whole has declined. While the NHL still has its fans, the sports of basketball, football, and baseball all eclipse it by a pretty wide margin. The NFL has diehard fans waiting all week just to watch one game. Baseball players play more often, but it is not contact oriented. The reason that it has a huge following is because of the homeruns and power hitters that come with it. With basketball, you have the outrageous players and showstopping dunks and alley oops. With hockey, it's a different story all together.
Yes, hockey is a full contact sport. Its players are paid quite a large amount of money as well. With hockey, there are no power hitters to hit homeruns. They can perform slapshots to score a goal, but that is not as exciting as watching a baseball soar into the stadium seats. They can check other players into the glass, but very seldom to you to see an extremely hard hit. The hard hits I am talking about are the ones that send the victim through plexiglass. These are the type of hits that like it or not, the fans want to see. Fans also seem to have a disconnect with the way the sport is played. If teams play the trap, they may increase their chances of winning, but watching the game is far more boring. Would you want to sacrifice winning a hockey game or making it exciting to the fans? In my opinion, these all play a factor in the popularity of the sport.
We also can not forget the strike that happened in recent years. The baseball strike killed baseball for a good number of years until the whole home run record fiasco with a certain two popular players happened. Does hockey and the NHL need something like this to happen to get the sport to obtain new fans? I honestly believe that when the new superstar of the sport comes around and starts to break Wayne Gretzky's hockey records, people will stand up and take notice. At this time, you will see the NHL rise again as the popular sport it wants and strives to be, until then we may have to sit around watching, baseball, football and basketball. Is hockey's popularity dead? It is not really dead and buried, but more it is more like forgotten on an old bookshelf full of books. It will be a while before people start to take notice of hockey again.