Who really cares who watched it and who didn't.
They're apples and oranges. Right now, the NHL has re-entered into the conversation in the Northern US (which is huge). Hell, they were behind NASCAR. They're essentially re-building their brand and they're doing a decent job at it.
Hell, a big reason why the NHL suffered is because ESPN has plugged them at all. Meanwhile, the NBA is in bed with ESPN and really ESPN and its whole culture has killed alot of my interest in the NBA.