Thanks to the "Puck Daddy" Greg Wyshanski of Yahoo! Sports (for now!) (previously of the Fourth Period, then the AOL Fanhouse, then Deadspin all within the last year or so. Apparently Greg chases sports websites like Elisha Cuthbert chases hockey douchebags. I digress)
anyways as I was saying, Wyshanski has dug up the über-cool new technology that allows people to use ice skates on a surface that isn't ice. And yes while right now it's cheesy, in that awesome Japanese way, it could be the foundation of the future of hockey players.
Unless a catastrophe hits I seriously doubt Ice hockey will ever be without, you know, ice. In saying that there are already locals in which an ice hockey rink is too costly to build and upkeep. The AC alone needed to keep the ice from melting is no doubt astronomically expensive.
One reason MLB has rebounded nicely from their strike in '94 is that the quality of play was better than it had ever been. Despite expansion MLB was drawing from a strong international talent base, with Latin America being a key player (oh yeah and steroids may have helped too). The NHL has done a solid job of recruiting international talent as well (which is why there hasn't been a significant drop of play quality despite expansion). The NBA is also reaping the benefits of globalization and players like Yao Ming, Dirk Novitski and plenty more become key players in the league.
The NHL's disadvantage is obviously the fact that they have to pander to cold weather locals, whereas baseball and basketball can be played by pretty much anywhere. However this new "ice"could potentially level the playing field a little. I don't think you'll ever see an NHLer born and raised in a place like Morocco, however it could allow better development abroad in places like Northern Italy, France, and other temperate places. Domestically markets like St. Louis, Dallas, San Jose, Denver and Columbus would benefit from having longer hockey seasons, or summer hockey.
If the NHL were smart they would at least explore investing in this new technology.