Chicago, IL – I grew up in the sixties watching hockey and the team I loved the Chicago Blackhawks. I’ve always had a great fondness for the Indianhead sweater and the fastest team game. There is very little I don’t love about hockey except maybe how this sport and the NHL are not being properly appreciated by the majority of Americans. I think there are plenty of people who would love hockey too if they were only exposed to it. So here is my plea to the Commissioner since he is the one that can take advantage of the rare opportunity that is being presented him with what is certain will be an NBA lockout and many fans alittle disillusioned with the NFL with their recent lockout. Commissioner Bettman has not done much right as far as most hockey fans are concerned, all he has to do is step out on the ice to get the entire stadium booing. So Mr. Bettman here is your chance to make small amends to the great game of hockey and it’s prodigious fans.
Now while the NFL football is king in the US there is still room for hockey and maybe hockey should take a note from the NFL. It was television that launched the NFL into the US sports public audience as their sport of viewing choice and was the perfect marriage of sport and broadcasting. I think hockey could take a cue here and follow the NFL paradigm. TV ratings are climbing but the key is to be on the major networks and not just one. The NFL are on most major networks and exposure and accessibility is key. The NHL right now are locked into a new 10 year agreement with NBC/Versus/Comcast. Now I have nothing against the NBC networks but they are limited to local and during playoffs national broadcasts but ONLY during playoffs and special hockey events like the Winter Classic are even shown nationally and on regular broadcast television, everything is on cable. The NHL needs to get more exposure on regular television networks, I know it is hard to believe but not everyone has cable or satellite TV.
The NHL did have a association with ESPN but that relationship no longer exists and it is hurting the NHL. They are rarely shown on ESPN’s sports center shows and lets face it ESPN is on in every bar and resturant in most major metropolitan cities. Talk about reaching the masses this could only benefit the game of hockey after all ESPN is the self professed “Worldwide leader in Sports” if hockey wants to be considered a major league they have to play in the big boy arena with ESPN, plus this would give them more national and also international exposure. ESPN also is an ABC/Disney affiliate since hockey promotes family values and it’s a family sport why not the alliance with Disney’s ESPN? Commissioner you need to somehow get back into the good graces with ESPN.
I would also suggest that you do a better job of promoting your leagues bright, young stars like Crosby, Toews, Kane, Cotoure, ect more to get the US children a connection and identity they can relate to. These players are the face of Canada but need to make them more recognizable in the US. This promotes, family and personal achievements that goals can be achieved and these kids will bring their parents to the games and will watch on television and besides children could be doing much worse than watching or playing hockey this would not only promote the NHL but hockey and youth hockey as well.
Canada has hockey nite in Canada why can’t we in the US have Hockey nite in America? I suggest something like running games in prime time more particularly in original six cities and hot markets like Philly, Pittsburgh ect especially with NBA lockout now is the time to seize market share. I would not suggest competing with the NFL so I would steer clear of Sundays but what about Fridays or Saturday nights? The NFL will soon have Thursday football and they already have Monday Night Football so NHL you need to secure Wednesday, Friday or Saturday nights either that or wait until the months of Feb, March when there is no NFL to compete with and when the home stretch of the NHL regular season is heating up, feature great divisional match-up or rivalries. I know everyone in Chicago would love to see their Blackhawks vs Canucks or NY would love Rangers vs Bruins.
Mr. Commissioner you also need to take advantage of your network – NBC’s strenghths. You should be using their technology to do something only your sport has currently – use multi mediums like internet and twitter coupled with network broadcasts to offer multiple camera angles, zoom into benches, more interviews with coaches, twitter feeds. I recently saw NBC do this at Wimbeldon so they are very familiar with incorporating all of this technology to present a great interactive product. Capitalize with more announcers like Edzo that explain the technical aspects of the sport. In practice put a camera on a goalie and forward so people can really see the speed the athletes are going at and to get the feel of hockey.
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing, the NHL has a great marketing campaign with “History Will Be Made” but this is only during the play-offs, need to come up with a great hook to start the season and throughout the season – I don’t know – Who will want it more?Miracles on ice don’t just happen at the Olympics – feel the speed – come see the NHL? Sports is entertainment – so entertain us. Like movie trailer hooks grabs people to want to see a movie. Whether it be to showcase rivalries, stars skills, stadium nuances, speed of the game, needs to be captured and promoted better.
Hockey is a great game and there is nothing like it. Now is the time for hockey to step to the forefront in America with times being as difficult as they are more than ever people need to distracted and entertained and if they can get some NBA people to watch all the better for hockey. I can’t think of a more emotionally involving game with unbelievably fast skilled athletes, contortionists with unique head gear called goalies, the snow flying up from the speed of the players skates on icings, the smell of the ice and the wonderful Zambonis that clear the ice, arenas that have a persona of their own like Vancouver’s’ Rogers Arena, Detroit’s’ Joe Arena, Montreal’s’ Bell Center, Boston’s TD Garden and of course Chicago’s the Mad house on Madison. Hockey maybe Canada’s game but it just could be because America has not yet to really discover it.