The NHL failed in Arizona, but it’s succeeding in America

THE PURSUIT of the Stanley Cup, the most cherished trophy on ice, is in full swing. The first round of the National Hockey League playoffs, a 16-team, two-month sprint, is just about done. But before the games could begin in late April the NHL had to take care of a messy bit of business. It announced the relocation of its Phoenix-based franchise, the Coyotes, after nearly three decades of sweat in the Arizona desert. For a league that has long wanted to expand its presence in America, losing a foothold in one of the country’s fastest-growing regions is a serious blow.

For years the NHL has ranked a distant fourth in North American sports leagues, behind the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB) in viewership and revenue. And holding on to that fourth spot will not be easy. Major League Soccer (MLS) is catching up, thanks in part to the buzz generated by Lionel Messi’s highlight-reel efforts for Inter Miami.