NHL Needs To Strike While The Iron Is Hot

During the course of the last two weeks I became a hockey fan. Never
really watched the game other than the last few minutes of some
meaningful playoff games, but upon further review, hockey’s not so bad
after all.

Unfortunately I’m not sure how long this new infatuation will last. You
have to remember the game that tugged at my heart in Vancouver is not
the same product as an NHL game. In fact, it’s far from it, and that’s
the images.jpgproblem. While I realize it was the flag-waving type of patriotism
that always accompanies the Olympic Games that pulled me in in the
first place, but once I was there, I still had to be entertained and
Olympic-style hockey did just that. The wide-open, back-and-forth,
no-clinching play is different from the start-stop, low-flow style that
is the NHL. And while I didn’t see any players drop the gloves and go
at it like I might on any given night watching NHL play, I’ll gladly
trade an exciting fluid, up-tempo game for one filled with one-on-one
rock’em, sock’em robot battle after another at center ice.

Now, for the million-dollar question: how does the NHL find a way to
keep me, the borderline, casual fan in the fold for good? NHL
Commissioner Gary Bettman would likely pay closer to a billion dollars
if someone could provide him with that winning formula because the
excitement generated by the USA-Canada Gold Medal game is something NHL
executives simply can’t relate to. Never has a Stanley Cup Final game
created the stir and captivated a continent like Sunday afternoon’s
matchup did. More than 80 percent of all Canadiens witnessed the game
and while the numbers weren’t that high here in the U.S., they were
higher than the final game of last year’s World Series and blew away
the yearly totals of the NBA Finals.

But where does the NHL go from here and how do they capitalize? If I
had the answer to that one I would have been on the phone with Bettman
before the last line of Oh Canada was sung. But one thing I do
know that would improve NHL popularity is creating a brand of hockey
similar to that played in the Olympics. Easier said than done I realize,
but much like when an NFL team enjoys success running out of the
Wildcat formation and the following week every team has copied it, why
not copy the format and style of play used in the Olympics and
implement it on a nightly basis in NHL play?

Here’s some suggestions: Create rule changes that encourage more
offense and less stoppages in play. Retract several of the teams
struggling in the attendance department and improve the depth and
overall play of each of the remaining teams. Increase the rink size to
encourage more of an up-tempo, fast-paced game. They should also
consider a reduction in the pad size of the goalie equipment to
increase scoring.

But equally important in any NHL renovation would start and end in the
marketing department. Let’s face it, there’s something seriously wrong
with your sport when more people in the U.S. know who got the ring on
“The Bachelor” than what team Sid The Kid plays for. And the reason
behind the NHL’s invisibility factor among most of us in America is
poor marketing. When was the last time you saw a Gatorade commercial
featuring either one of the game’s top two players, Alex Ovechkin or
Sidney Crosby? The answer is the day before never. How many times have
you seen an NHL star strolling down the red carpet at some fancy
Hollywood event? Sitting next to Letterman? Guest starring on a sitcom?

I realize that to effectively market a person or sport you must create
a buzz and a demand. For the NHL to capitize on the new-found
popularity created by an exciting Olympic run, NHL stars need to be
marketed properly and marketed immediately while the iron is still hot.
If they don’t react quickly enough they’ll be forced to hope for
another epic battle that gets the flags waving again. And with the next
Winter Olympics being played in Russia, the odds of that type of stir
being recreated are as low as the temperatures there. C’mon NHL, strike while
the iron is hot and go out and spend some money making the changes
necessary to keep a fringe fan like me in the fold.

One thought on “NHL Needs To Strike While The Iron Is Hot

  1. steve emerick on said:

    Can i agree to disagree Scott?

    being a long time fan of the NHL , I like the occasional droppage of gloves, I like the heated rivalries of the pens/Flyers, rangers/isles etc etc. I dont think this area needs any changing.

    However what does need to be changed rules wise is the no touch icing! I like that and it speeds up the play!

    Another change is a for the NHl to get a real national TV contract like they used to have with ESPN! This once a week half season stuff between versus and NBC is horrible and really limits their exposure! Heck let ESPN have it for half the price that alone should entice them to jump in!

    Move some of the sun belt teams with low attendance back to canada! How long has it been since a Canadian team hoisted the Cup? Montreal in the nineties? How long has it been since there was even a team based in Canada in the Cup Final!?

    Remember we watched a team of all-stars play each other night after night for 2 weeks (for the most part). They didnt have to clutch and grab each other to slow them down or clog up the blue line because the players had equal skills. The NHL squads that they come back to are far from that talented and coaches are paid to devise schemes to help their teams win so back to the neutral zone trap and the clutching and grabbing and banging that plagues the game today.

    That being said I will continue to support hockey in its current form , I just wont be able to see as much of it as Id like!