Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Is the NHL Suicidal?

Every day there's no hockey, I shake my head at the stupidity of the NHL and its owners for this Lockout. Until yesterday when I realized that the NHL is actually experiencing deep psychological trouble. I think it's trying to kill itself. How else do you explain its odd, self-destructive behavior?

The NHL has grown total revenues by 50% since the last Lockout, and it's wasting an opportunity to grow even more. Here's what the NHL is missing out on...

1. Cable companies are craving content
Especially sports. There are new channels every day and they all want sports. Because people watch sports live, not on DVR or onDemand. They watch the sports (and the commercials) as they happen. Which advertisers love, so therefore cable channels loves. NBC Sports just bought the rights to broadcast off-road truck racing, and rumor has it they bought the rights to Formula 1. How many college football games were on TV Saturday? Harvard/Bucknell was broadcast nationally. There's an insatiable hunger for sports and the NHL has taken itself off the menu.

The NHL has been with NBC Sports, and it could've been the flagship partner of a growing sports network. But because it's suicidal, it's decided to jeopardize its popularity (and therefore its ratings) by not existing for a few months. And each game cancelled is a game not televised.

2. Big markets are in love with their teams
We call them pink hats, but their money and their TV viewership is just as valuable to teams as loyal fans. And in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles (a town comprised almost entirely of pink hats), hockey was becoming popular. These big market teams were carrying the league. And now the fickle pink hats, who don't even notice that the season hasn't started, will find other forms of entertainment.

The recent growth of hockey in Boston, Chicago, and LA is under threat because the Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers can't pay their bills.

3. Canada on equal footing
The exchange rate between US and Canadian money is essentially 1 to 1. That was not always the case. A few years ago, Canadian teams struggled because their fans paid in Canadian dollars and they paid their players in US dollars. With the exchange rate even, that financial handicap is gone.

Canada also wants more teams. They're hungry for the game. And they can provide homes for the Southern NHL teams that aren't making money.

These three things clearly demonstrate that the NHL is trying to destroy itself. It's on the verge of making significant strides forward, as a brand, as a money-maker, and as a game. This is a great environment for the NHL to grow in, so how else can you explain the owners forcing this Lockout?

They must want the League and the Game to die.

Red Sox Won't Raise Ticket Prices in 2013

Typically, the Red Sox announce next season's ticket prices in a subdued, secretive manner. They often release the news the day after Thanksgiving, when everyone is too busy shopping or doped on tryptophan to notice or care about a price increase.

This year, on a Monday afternoon, with minimal surrounding distractions, the Red Sox triumphantly announced that they would not raise ticket prices in 2013. In effect, prices would be "frozen."

Well gosh, gee, and golly. What stupendous news!

Chairman Lucchino issued a typical Fenway Sports Group statement:

"Over the past few years, we have fallen short of our goals to play postseason baseball. Through it all, fans have shown their deep loyalty and support, for which we are all grateful. Our commitment to winning is as strong as it has ever been, and we look forward to the challenge of bringing our fans the winning and entertaining baseball team they richly deserve."

My first thought: don't act like this is some sort of positive gesture or gift to the fans. Asking us to pay the same bloated prices as last year is a non-action, not a positive action. No need for any statement whatsoever. This is no gift.

In the release on RedSox.com, it is twice mentioned that the Sox have only raised ticket prices two times in the last five years.

Do you want us to thank you for that, Mr. Lucchino? I wouldn't brag about it either since the Sox have made the playoffs only twice in the last five years.

Do you know what would've been nice, and possibly smart? Lowering ticket prices. Not all of them. Maybe making a few more rows of bleacher seats cost only $12. And $28 for regular bleachers is a bit much. How about $20? Even $22?

Is that not reasonable? Will that not help maintain the Most Sacred Sellout Streak? What kind of moron is pleased that after finishing in 5th the Red Sox have decided to keep the same prices on tickets?

Make some sort of gesture that says to the fans "We're sorry, we want you back." Don't brag about doing nothing.

Since the Sox had their worst season since 1965, maybe we should have ticket and concession prices from 1965. Now that would make me happy, and that would be worth bragging about, Lucchino.