Three ideas to keep women’s hockey relevant until 2018

The loss by the ladies of team USA was worse, to me as an American fan. 

It wasn't necessarily that women's hockey means more to me than men's hockey. It doesn't, though I do enjoy the U.S. women's team whenever I see them play. It's that I know that, for the two teams involved, this will be their only time in the limelight between now and 2018 in Pyeongchang.

This is a cruelty that faces many Olympic sports, but that it happens to women's hockey seems a little embarrassing to me, as a diehard hockey fan. We see games like the one that took place between USA and Canada, and we marvel at the skill and the mental fortitude it takes to play this game at such a high level. That we can't find a place for them to share the spotlight with the men in between Olympics is something we should look at as a great concern for hockey moving forward.

Now, I begrudgingly agree with Gary Bettman and those who say that there probably isn't the appetite for a women's league just yet. Sure, you could put up the money to play a season in Montreal, Toronto, Minnesota and Boston and it probably wouldn't lose more money than the Panthers after a while, but I'd think the league would want to be able to get it right if they sponsored a league at all.

But 4.9 million viewers watched that gold medal game. There must be some way to keep this sport visible during the off years. Here are three "non-league" suggestions.

A showdown at the Winter Classic

Let's face it, we're probably never going to top the alumni-stravaganza of the Ann Arbor/Detroit game. Washington's already participated in one, and if the NHL picks the Flyers as their opponent next year, they have too. Replace it with USA-Canada, live, outdoors, possibly in primetime. NBCSN and CBC would air it, and it would almost definitely beat the alumni games in ratings. 

A best-of series at the All-Star Game

What about a best-of-three or best-of-five taking place on the off days of the All-Star break? The home city of the All-Star Game would serve as the home arena for one team (i.e. Columbus next year), and you could rotate cities like Minneapolis, Boston, Grand Forks, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary in each year. NHL Network, NBCSN and the Sportsnet conglomerate would combine to air it, and the winner gets a trophy or something!

You could just air the Women's World Championships and Frozen Four

This seems like the easiest idea. There will be no top flight Women's World Championships this year because the IIHF doesn't play it during Olympic years. Just have the NHL Network or NBCSN pick it up in the States. That goes double for the women's Frozen Four, which last year could only air online after a last-ditch attempt by BTN to pick it up.

About Steve Lepore

Steve Lepore is a writer for Bloguin and a correspondent for SiriusXM NHL Network Radio.