NHL is Back, Who Cares and How to Save It

120919051509_NHL_lockout  The NHL lockout is over, woo hoo, wait did anyone even notice they were in a lockout really?  The lockout lasted 113 days and cost the NHL it’s All-Star Game, and the Winter Classic. Honestly most sport fans in the United States don’t care for hockey, and sadly most of the cities with NHL teams don’t care either. The state of the NHL is a huge mess with no clear remedy.

 

The problems with the NHL are simple, bad team locations, and horrible marketing. Hockey also doesn’t translate well onto television either. Fixing these issues is a must. Without these things the NHL will continue its faceless slide off the sports map. We used to say the big four sports, now we say the big three sports. That is where the NHL is now, equal with MLS and the PGA. Sadly a tournament with Tiger Woods in it pulls better tv ratings then the Stanley Cup Finals.

 

The NHL has stars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, yet it doesn’t market them. For the NHL most Americans can name only Crosby, or Ovechkin as players. Some will still say Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky.  You give the NBA or NFL players like Crosby and Ovechkin and would have them on the television constantly. The Los Angeles Kings won the last Stanley Cup yet naming their players would be like doing AP calculus to most of us. Getting the faces of your stars out there is a major tool in gaining popularity. This seems simple and something Gary Bettman should be focused on doing, yet years have passed without a Lemieux type marketed player.

 

Gary Bettman has a global sport on his hands and has teams in places like Nashville and Tampa Bay. The smartest and most lucrative idea would be to get rid of all the warm climate teams and put teams in Europe. Teams in Sweden, Norway, Poland, and other hockey crazed Euro countries. It would be as easy as keeping the Original 6 the Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montreal Canadiens. The Minnestoa Wild, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames, then adding these Euro teams. Have an North America Conference and European Conference.  Sure the question of how do you schedule the games comes up. it’s very simple for one month each conference plays with in itself, then the next month half of each conference goes and plays the opposing conference, and the following month switch the teams that were home and send them to play at the other conference. The league season should be six months as two months for self conference play and 4 months of interconference play with swapping the teams doing the traveling. This saves on the expenses of  doing intercontinental travel so often. You gain the fans from hockey crazed Europe and added marketing  opportunities being in large Euro cities.

 

The NHL isn’t a completely lost cause,yet. There are things that can be done to bring fans back, and bring in new fans. Simple marketing is the easiest and most logical. A better television contract would help immensely also. If Bettman and the owners don’t grow with the times and see the opportunities to take this league global they will have dug their own graves. The NHL is the one American sports league that gould go global and hold its own. I say the NHL should say goodbye to Tampa Bay and Carolina and say hello to Sweden and Norway.   By Steve Kish

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