(SNH) — I love the game of hockey.

I never played it, but I am extremely grateful that all three of my sons played the game.  It taught them so many valuable lessons that has benefitted them into adulthood.

Like other athletes, I marvel at NHL and college player’s skills.  Their skating is so effortless and their toughness is so obvious.

But hockey, the National Hockey League and, especially college hockey, does an atrocious job of marketing its sport.  Collectively they seem content to let hockey be a “regional sport.” 

The NCAA Men’s college hockey tournament is a perfect example.  It featured some incredible games like Denver needing two overtimes to beat UMass in the regional semifinals; Quinnipiac needing overtime to end Wisconsin’s season, only to experience the same heartbreak in the Regional finals in a loss to number one, Boston College.

Then there was Michigan State coming from two goals down to beat Western Michigan in overtime in the Regional semi’s, setting up a meeting with arch-rival Michigan in the Regional Finals after the Wolverines held off North Dakota in a one-goal decision. UM beat MSU to advance to its third straight Frozen Four and its record 28th overall. 

In all, there were six one-goal games out of 12 in the Regionals and how much buzz was there about the games, players or results? 

Hardly any.  Go try and find the results or game recaps on your favorite sports website.  If you’re not looking on the school’s hockey website, it’s challenging.  It’s just not on the radar.

This was great theater, but it was mostly ignored for a number of reasons, including the timing.  They play these games at the same time of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament.  Why would you have these two scheduled at the same time?

Why would hockey want to go toe-to-toe with one of the highest rated, highest anticipated and highest sports gambling events on the calendar?  Don’t tell me you can’t change dates.  Leagues do whatever they can to avoid coinciding with the Super Bowl kickoff.  If professional teams can do it, then so can college institutions.

Why doesn’t the NHL, or the sport in general, market its stars? 

I have been around every kind of athlete in sports and hockey players, by far, are the easiest and most down-to-earth of them all. Why do none of these guys get national branding endorsement deals?  Not a local car dealership, but big-time sponsorship. Don’t give me Mark Messier with Lays Chips in 2012 or Alexander Ovechkin with Capital One around the same time.

I’m talking current stars like Connor McDavid (he does have a BET MGM commercial), Nathan Mackinnon, Auston Matthews, David Pastrnak, Cole Makar or Sidney Crosby.

Shaquille O’Neal made a reported $200 million in endorsements as a player, but he’s been retired since 2011 and makes just as much now as a spokesperson.  Charles Barkley has reportedly made over $10 million endorsing various products and he’s been out of basketball for 24 years. Both infectious personalities, but a combined 113 years old. 

You’re telling me there’s no room in this endorsement landscape for a fresh, young NHL face? 

What is hockey doing?  Sure, there are more NHL players coming from the college ranks than ever before and the NHL is stable, but if you want to grow the game even more you need to market your stars and sport to more than just the NHL Network. 

The Frozen Four takes place April 13 in Minneapolis.  Three “blue bloods” of college hockey will be there.  Michigan is there for a record 28th time. Boston College will be represented for a 25th time; second most ever.  Boston University punched its ticket for a 24th appearance, third most ever.  The University of Denver is also in the mix, the Pioneers 19th trip, which ranks sixth most. Each roster is decorated with NHL draft picks with young men who are well-spoken, charismatic and humble.

The question is how many sports fans will watch them compete? How many media outlets will cover it or inform you of the results? How many will care?

Tough to answer that when the sport itself doesn’t seem to care enough.

Matt Shepard is a writer for Sports News Highlights.