Teams sharing ownership, media enterprises, staying power that other sports lack, and even venues give the NHL and the MLB unique bonds in many markets.
Depending on a prospective fan’s range in taste, hockey and baseball are an easy pair of sports to take an interest in.
They are all but polar opposites in some superficial respects. Yet they combine to fill out the calendar with minimal overlap (at least in ordinary years) and bear can’t-miss common threads for those who follow closely.
One is the sport most synonymous with summer, another the one quickest to evoke winter. One has long laid claim to the moniker America’s pastime, the other Canada’s. Many A-list athletes played both in their youth, including Canadian Sidney Crosby and American Jack Johnson together for one year in high school. Even Wayne Gretzky had fervent MLB aspirations.
And across both countries, both games have sustained an elaborate, tried-and-true minor league system. Other sports have yet to match hockey and baseball’s professional development model. (Basketball has had circuits of that sort for almost as long as the NBA, but did not commit to a bona fide counterpart to Triple-A ball or the AHL until this century.)
At one level or another, the minor leagues harbor a team in both sports in more than 30 markets. There have been numerous other examples of that before, and there could be more in the future.
This means the residents of 30-plus localities have one of two wallet-friendly experiences built around a competition to take civic pride in year-round. For the two sports at large, this compensates for the dearth of national attention their college ranks get compared to the mainstream spectacle of NCAA hoops and football.
Despite that firmer coast-to-coast clasp of the other games, hockey and baseball do have a noticeable kinship at the top level in a few pockets around the continent. Some are even a decisive one-two punch through their respective representatives on a given dateline’s sports scene.
Through their franchises, the following seven NHL/MLB markets epitomize the bond hockey and baseball can and will forge. Common broadcast enterprises, ownership groups, staying power that other leagues lack, minor-to-major-league shuttle routes, and even home venues factor in.