Chicago, IL — With the threat of an impending labor strike hanging over the NHL, the 2012 season will come down to money as it always does. What can bring in more money for the league is the advancement in the NHL’s popularity and bringing the brand to new and wider audiences. In order to do this however the league has to stop acting like it is the fourth sport in the USA.
The goal of the league should be to get more people to the arenas and increase more ticket sales and merchandise sales and to advance their brand. The league has the perfect venue to enhance their league and their sport which they are not using to its full capacity. What is this tool? Television. The league has a major network committed to them in NBC and they also have on their fingertips their own network NHL network. The NHL is not taking full advantage to either.
The NHL has not learned that out of sight is out of mind. The league needs to constantly be in front of people even in the off-season. The NHL could take a cue from the NFL. While re-run programming is acceptable to do occasionally, the entire summer should not consist of this type of programming. It is not attracting new audiences or sustaining interest in the NHL.
When you are the fourth league you have to work harder than the other leagues to increase your market share. New innovative programming is what the NHL network needs especially in the USA where there is a number of other sports vying for audience attention. Hockey players are down to earth and accessible so why not showcase them to the world. There are plenty of personalities in the league that are not camera-shy Alex Olvechkin, Pat Kane, Scott Hartnell to name a few.
The NFL network covers their combine in a three-day event yet the NHL barely shows highlight clips of this event. NHL fans are interested in the future of the league and the up and comers. There is so much more the network could do in this area as far as coverage goes.
Sports is entertainment but it also is about achievements, sacrifice and determination. It is fueled by the extraordinary athletes and their stories of how they got to the NHL. The audience would love to hear these stories. These stories provide inspiration and hope for us all. It also may make young children want to get involved with hockey. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are interested to hear NHLers stories, training & approach to hockey and life. These stories should also examine coaches, trainers and yes even the commissioner.
The NHL has expanded some of its programming with coverage of the draft, winter classics, all-star game and skills competition. The NHL 36 was a huge success among fans and would love more. The HBO 24/7 coverage of the NY Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers prior to the Winter Classic was great theater and gave a glimpse into what teams go through before games.
There is plenty to cover in the offseason, trades, rookie camps, conventions, injuries and how they are coming along, coaching changes, rookies & AHL and affiliate teams players who have a good shot at making the NHL teams ect.. Speaking of which more programming could be devoted to covering the affiliate leagues and college prospects. Trades and retirements could potentially impact not only teams but divisions and this could be analyzed.
Fantasy sports are gaining popularity and are huge in the US yet NHLN has no resources devoted to fantasy hockey at all. If the league wants to advance this needs to change. Americans love to gamble on sports and fantasy hockey is just another tool to keep fans connected to the league and sport that they love. Fantasy hockey strategies could be discussed and analyzed yet very little time or programming is devoted to this.
The NFL does a great job of analyzing the X’s & O’s of their sport other than Eddie Olczyk’s in game analysis the NHL really does not. What does it mean to be a puck possession team? What is a 1-3-1 formation? What are the different set-ups for power plays ect.. In order for people to get hooked on this game you need to make it accessible and easy for them to understand.
Important issues like concussion research and improvement in equipment and technology could also be looked at. A look at potential rule changes for player safety, rink improvements ect. The potential here is limitless. The league probably does a better job with the explanation on the suspension by Brendan Shanahan than the NFL does but even more could be done with examining the rules and their enforcement.
While the athletes and coaches need the summer off to rest and recharge their batteries for the next season, why do NHL network people need the summer off? The answer is they don’t. So get on it NHL network and commissioner Bettman if you want to advance your league and your sport there is plenty of work you need to do. This hockey fan is watching and impatiently waiting for you to at least try to compete with the other major leagues re-run programming will not get it done.