Europe in a decade?
I don't understand the thinking that the NHL has to be more popular in North America before adding Europe to its base. The market's there. Take it.
In fact, I'd argue that no sport is more balanced in popularity and talent in Europe and North America than is hockey. And it's been that way for 30 years. (I know I'm opening myself up for an education in the global balance of bocce ball or marbles.)
The only downside is that hockey's European base isn't in western Europe, it's in the east and Scandanavia, but so be it. Other sports would kill to have hockey's popularity on both sides of the Atlantic. Soccer wants it, but doesn't have it in North America. Basketball wants it, but doesn't come near hockey's talent pool in Europe.