And how has that worked out for Indy? The sport has gone from American tradition to afterthought in a single generation.
The increasing number of non-American drivers in IndyCar has undoubtedly caused some old-time fans to find other forms of racing but the driver's nationality is a minor issue in the disintegration of open-wheel racing in the USA. By far, the largest factor has been management and ownership issues which fractured USAC into competing camps each with their own rules, technologies and venues. I doubt that the younger fans of open-wheel racing care much where their favorite driver comes from but it did use to be important when USAC dirt tracks were where most drivers started their careers before moving into the bigs.
In all seriousness, I don't doubt that hard-core hockey fans don't care much about the nationalities of the players. The issue is how best to broaden the fan base in the US beyond the hard-core fans. Back to my original point -- Don Cherry is not the solution.
If I gave the impression that I thought Cherry was an attraction to widening the fan base it was an obvious mistake. Cherry's appeal is to existing hockey fans even though he uses his soap box to preach to the young players who may be watching.
I don't have a good answer as to broadening the fan base in the US. I do know that most of the people who are not fans dismiss hockey as a goon sport ala the WWE and that needs to be changed.
I also know the sport needs media champions who will report consistently and fairly on games where they exist and perhaps spread the message out within their local regions. As an example, we have a team here in Phoenix which gets very poor coverage. The games are televised only on cable and articles appear in the newspaper and TV only when events of special interest happen. If the team misses the playoffs (a normal occurrence) all coverage stops.
Another more common problem for hockey though is timing of the season. It begins in October when the World Series is taking place hence very little hockey coverage. State fairs also happen during this time so some teams are forced to take lengthy road trips right at the beginning of their season. Then, just as the regular season is winding down and competition for playoff spots is getting intense we have March Madness which sucks all the air out of all other sports (unless you live in a major hockey market). In between, and competing for fan dollars, is NCAA and NFL football. The Stanley Cup playoffs then frequently go well into June when people are beginning their summer vacations, summer camps etc.
It is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, for hockey to increase substantially its fan base against such competition and scheduling.