Hockey just isn't nearly as accessible for most americans as the other sports. The equipment is expensive, the skating ice isn't all over. Baseball? Just need minimum equipment to play a game, everyone needs gloves, you can share one ball and one bat. Basketball you just need a hard surface, one ball and a hoop. Football is even easier, one ball and thats it. Hockey is much harder to have "pick up games" in. Especially in the south. Unless your playing roller hockey or something, and even that requires every player to have a stick and skates. Especially in the south where lakes/ponds don't freeze over often. Another big factor with the lack of NHL appeal is that the large majority of the league is foreign born. There are very few "hometown heroes" that you watched play in college, and then became a star player.