Wednesday, February 03, 2010
THE PLAN FOR HOCKEY (CONTINUED)*
Last week I issued 5 ways the NHL could improve itself and perhaps regain some of its lost popularity. Here are some more things they could (and I think need) to do...
VI: GET THE FUCK ON ESPN!
Versus offered the NHL a guaranteed TV deal, ESPN offered less, and with conditions. The NHL was coming out of the lockout, so I understand the need for cash right now. But in the longrun, ESPN offers so many more benefits compared to Versus.
#1: Every cable system in the country has it
#2: Every man and most women know exactly what channel ESPN is on
#3: ESPN promotes itself, so people know what will be on ESPN and when
#4: ESPN more prominently features the sporting events it broadcasts
The NHL shouldn't be worried about immediate TV revenue. Because that stream will someday (sooner than you'd think) dry up if kids don't get to see hockey on TV because their cable company doesn't play Versus, so the kids never play the game, and/or become fans of the game.
VII: MORE AMERICANS
This is a bit harder to achieve. But the NHL should invest some time, effort, and money into promoting the game in hockey talent regions like New England, the Midwest, and the Rockies. Instead of trying to spread the game to the South, the NHL needs to fully utilize the potential athletes that can come out of these regions.
And the ultimate goal should be to produce an American Superstar. Who are the big names in the NHL right now? They're all Canadians and Russians. We need more Americans and one big American star.
VIII: STAY IN THE OLYMPICS
The deal allowing NHL players to represent their countries in the Olympics ends after the 2010 Games. And the NHL is considering backing out of the Olympics. This is a mistake. The excitement of Olympics helps promote the game itself, both in North America and in the world. Having all-star teams of Finns, Swedes, Germans, and Czechs gets those countries excited about the games. Simple question really: do you think the ratings for an Olympic hockey game would go up or down if there weren't any NHLers participating?
IX: TINKER WITH THE WINTER CLASSIC, DON'T RUIN IT
The one thing the NHL does right these days is the Winter Classic. The NHL wants to implement a bidding process for the game, sort of like what the Olympics and World Cup do. Cities present proposals, and a committee selects the best one. That's a much better idea than a rotation system, or anything arbitrary like that.
The NHL should also considering allowing the fans up North to get in on the fun. Let two Canadian teams play each other in the Classic. But don't have it on New Years Day. Maybe have it in February. And even consider broadcasting it quietly on the NHL Network, instead of NBC or Versus. That way, outdoor games won't lose their unique appeal to the mainstream public.
X: SHORTEN THE REGULAR SEASON
82 games is pointlessly long, especially with a 16 team playoff structure. Cut it down by 10 or 12 games. Make regular season games more meaningful, more intense, and help reduce the laundry list of injuries that keep stars off the ice. I know what you're thinking: less games=less tickets=less money. Maybe. So charge a little more per game. And honestly I think what you sacrifice in upfront ticket sales, you'll regain with more TV ratings per game.
And seriously, only a few rinks are sold out every night. They'd be the only ones to lose significant money by reducing the length of the season.