Columnists, Hockey, Sports

5-Minute Major: The NHL may need a reality TV show

Hockey players need their own moment in the spotlight.

Annika Morris | Senior Graphic Artist

Netflix recently announced “Receiver,” the sequel to its popular series “Quarterback” which followed around three NFL quarterbacks for a behind-the-scenes look into their lives, and a docu-series about the 2024 Boston Red Sox. 

I now need the NHL to get its own reality show.

The NHL had the lowest viewership out of the four major American men’s sports in 2023, and the margin is pretty wide. The league could benefit greatly from a show that highlights the humanity of the athletes, making them more accessible to people on the outskirts of the fandom, casual fans and those like myself who are already in too deep and looking to exacerbate their obsession.

The NHL could benefit from what I like to call the Drive to Survive effect.

“Drive to Survive,” a show following Formula 1 drivers in a documentary-style series, increased F1 viewership in the US by 33% . The show brought a ton of new fans to the sport through backstage access and showcasing the people behind the wheel.  Over half of self-proclaimed F1 fans have credited their fandom to the TV series.

Creating layered characters that people can root for is such an easy way to create interest in a sport in this day and age. Humanity is drawn to relatability. It creates the same appeal that fictional TV shows have, with drama and characters, but without the script — and that attention has the potential to spill over when it relates to a sport.

There are so many players in the NHL that could attract new fans to the league. Here are the three that stand out to me the most.

Jeremy Swayman

I will not shut up about Jeremy Swayman. The Boston Bruins goalie is already a favorite across the league — and there is good reason for that. He is in a huge existing hockey market, which would reel Boston fans into the show, but I think that his character would appeal to anyone, regardless of their team of choice. He is widely acknowledged by fans as an amazing human being, so he’s easy to root for. 

In terms of visuals that would work well in creating intrigue for a show, he is from Alaska. Following him around the backpacking trails in the stunning beauty of his home state could be interesting to so many people. As an Alaskan myself, I would love some realistic representation of my hometown in popular media.

Jack Hughes

Jack Hughes has also already become popular among the young fans that this kind of show would appeal to. He has two brothers in the NHL, too, who would bring their own fans into the show. He plays with his brother Luke on the New Jersey Devils, and their older brother Quinn is captain of the Vancouver Canucks. The sibling dynamic would be entertaining on camera, especially with two Hughes on the same team. Jack and Luke’s relationship has already had a few viral moments, so building off that existing interest would be smart.

In addition to the sibling dynamic, the Hughes brothers are friends with a bunch of other characters across the league, and those cameos would draw interest from several other teams. Jack is friends with other rising stars across the league like Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras, Montreal Canadiens star Cole Caufield, and reigning Calder Trophy winner Matty Beniers on the Seattle Kraken. In fact, this star-studded friend group could earn its own reality show with its big personalities, and the youth of the group would appeal to younger fans in a similar way that YouTuber groups or boy bands do.

Josh Doan

I may be watching too many Arizona Coyotes games, but I think Josh Doan would be an under-the-radar pick for a reality show. He’s the son of Coyotes legend Shane Doan and was born and raised in Arizona hockey. 

Not only would people be interested in the family dynamic of an NHL legacy, but I think showing hockey in the desert would draw a lot of curiosity, too. Especially with the state of the Coyotes’ franchise and its future being up in the air, there would be drama baked into any storyline featuring any of the Arizona players. The Coyotes are one of the franchises that would benefit the most from the growth of its fanbase, too, and I would love to see their future start to look less depressing.

If athletes in other sports are getting the chance to gain attention off the field, NHL players have the potential to shine off the ice, too.

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