How Can the NHL make themselves more relevant in the sports landscape?
Every Week Back Sports Page asks Five Questions to staff and experts. The questions and answers are posted throughout this week on Backsportspage.com.
Check Out today's Question and let your voice be head by by leaving your opinion below!!
How Can the NHL make themselves more relevant in the sports landscape?
Ryan Stern (Beyond The Benches):I don't believe there is anything that can be done for the NHL to do that they haven't done yet to make them more relevant in the sports landscape, without tarnishing the integrity of the game. They've already tried the whole shootout thing. They've gone from 5-on-5 to 4-on-4 to now 3-on-3 overtime (which I can't stand, but that's neither here nor there). They've had the glow puck in the 90's. What the NHL banks on is the recurrence of their diehard fans. And as long as they don't lose them, they'll be fine enough.
Another thing that would help them is for ESPN to stop holding a grudge against the league from walking away from the backstabbing offer that the network gave the league before the 2005 season. If the NHL games got half the amount of air time that the NBA games get on SportsCenter, there would be more of a casual fan buzz about the league.
Jason Leach (Harlem Times):NHL has tried to make themselves more relevant by having games in football stadiums and reality shows on network TV but it's not working. They would need someone to emerge as a superstar in one of the big markets and hope that they have a great personality.
Ashley Mayle (Back Sports Page):I think there are two big components to relevancy in regards to popularity in sports. Those two components are community involvement and marketing on the national and local level. What is the NHL doing in the community to draw interest to the sport? For example, MLB has been running the RBI program in inner cities for decades to maintain interest among the inner city youth. What has the NHL done? The NHL needs to focus on building interest and relevancy at a young age therefore targeting younger consumers. This could be done through local camps and clinics at an affordable cost, local NHL sponsored events, and mass marketing by local teams.
Steve Saunders (Back Sports Page):Get rid of the ice, sticks and pads; swap the puck for a ball and double the number of outfield players. Play the games outside on a grass pitch and increase the size of the goals Or Two words. Pot. Holes.
Ted Hicks (Happy Hour Network): Hockey is relevant outside the United States. Fortunately, marketing is being handled by MLB Advanced Media - that's the first step. (These duties were previously was handled by Charles Wang's corporation.) Unfortunately, NBC doesn't know how to effectively market it's product. The NHL becomes relevant in the United States when they return to ESPN or collectively w/Fox. >
Ryan Morik (Beast of the East Sports):There's not much they can do. One thought was making the rink bigger - that takes away attendance. One thought was making the nets bigger - that ruins historic stats. I'm not sure why hockey isn't popular: fans want constant action and a contact sport, yet they complain that they hate hockey, because they "can't see the puck." I guess hockey is just a smart person's sport
JD Mowery (Back Sports Page):Of all the national conferences in the US, the NHL is probably #2 when it comes to being an international sport (MLB being 1 and NBA being third). If they would feature more of the back stories of the influential international players it could catch more attention in the US rather than being more popular in Canada. Ticket prices are great in comparison to the other brands. If they had more coverage of collegiate hockey it may also develop more interest in budding stars as well.
Matt Berkson (Back Sports Page): I'm not sure the NHL can, nor should, make themselves more relevant. Hockey is a niche sport that is never going to become as big as baseball, basketball, or certainly football. Those sports were invented by America as they were born out of a culture that has an interest in seeing athletes compete in those ways. Hockey was invented by Canadiens as a way to be athletic and watch sport in some of the coldest climates in the world. It's truly in their blood as hockey is easily the #1 sport in Canada.
Now sure the NHL could try to do a massive marketing campaign and get more people into hockey in the short-term, but the reality is that interest in hockey has a ceiling when compared with the other major American sports. It can't be as big here the way that basketball won't be as big there. The NHL is niche and instead of trying to compete with the other big three sports they should embrace the fact that the Stanley Cup in the most prestigious trophy in all of sport. In times where the NBA certainly often feels like their marketing is more important than the sport, the NHL should go the other way and stop trying to keep up.
Their most recent rule change of now having 3 on 3 overtime is a cheap gimmick that puts a greater toll on the players and one true historians don't appreciate. And the ironic thing is that 3 on 3 OT was created to hopefully keep teams from the shootout – Which was another gimmick to help eliminate ties. America is the only country that seems to care so much about games ending in ties. Again Canada invented hockey so they were fine with it. Plus soccer is the biggest sport on the planet and there are more ties there than anywhere else. America is never going to fully wrap its head around hockey, so hockey shouldn't change the beauty of what it is to accommodate pop culture America.
If anything the NHL should do whatever it takes to get someone who's never seen a hockey game live to a playoff game of a local team. The "second season" as they call it in the NHL has an intensity level that is seldom achieved anywhere in sport. Hockey is OK on TV, but it's a different experience live. If I was in the NFL offices I would be selling the game through the Stanley Cup playoffs. Many who know all sports well say it's the hardest "tournament" in the world. It's a time where all the overtime gimmicks go away and teams play it out until there's a winner. And all to win the most prestigious trophy in sport…The Stanley Cup. That is what the NHL should focus on when marketing, but not at the expense of keeping hockey the niche sport that it is…And a great one at that.
Matt Berka (Back Sports Page): This question commits the logical fallacy of begging the question, which means it assumes the answer. It assumes that the NHL needs to make itself more relevant in the first place. I don’t think it does. For years, the NHL has been steadily rising in popularity over the last 15 years, with a poll by Yahoo Sports in 2012 citing hockey to be as popular as basketball in the United States. Do a Google search of the rise of hockey’s popularity and you’ll find a myriad of articles over the last few years that boast the NHL’s rising attendance, game coverage, sales, and presence in the mainstream media. Part of this is thanks to the recent (and current) success of big-city teams such as the L.A. Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Boston Bruins. There’s a reason why the NBA has incentive to have always-good teams in L.A. and New York: it’s good for the sport.
The same is true for the NHL. Having good teams in major cities is good for the league, and the recent success of the NHL is evidence of that. The Olympics also has a lot to do with it. The U.S. team put hockey in a national spotlight during the 2014 Sochi games and made the name of T.J. Oshie household-caliber. The popular EA Sports NHL series is yet another reason for the increased popularity and success. It familiarizes gamers with teams and players and makes fans out of those who would otherwise not interact with or care about the league. The NHL does not need to make itself more relevant, and even if it did, it’s already doing all the right things.