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.