One of the most surprising things about the NHL is how little it does to effectively give itself long terms stability in terms of fan attention. I’ve discussed once or twice or maybe, just maybe quite a few times, some of the NHL’s marketing
failures opportunities for improvement. One of the ways that other industries do this is with their award shows.
The hype heading into the award shows from the announcements to reissuing of books, movies and myriad merchandise with award logos for both winners and nominees remind even the least interested that a given actor, writer, or musician is worth noting. The NHL Awards show is far less horrible than its equivalents. In fact it is probably the best produced NHL event of the year. Sure, the quest for ever more vanilla performing acts and positively whitebread presenters takes it down a notch, but it is at least interesting.
The current awards are mostly decided well in advance of the award show and handing them out is a mere formality. Figuring out who won the scoring race isn’t that hard. The Jennings Trophy only requires knowing what it’s awarded for. The others are drawn from a very small pool of players who are known before training camp even starts.
Currently the only two awards that have serious questions surrounding them by Thanksgiving (American or Canadian, take your pick) are the Jack Adams for best coach and the Calder Trophy for best rookie. While I have my favorites for each (See Southeast division for the first, and either the Atlantic or Northwest for the second) you can debate the merits of them and what each individuals impact was. The arguments for Hitchcock as this years Jack Adams can be made quite strong, and you can still give the Calder to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but neither would be my choice.
More importantly neither award possesses much panache or widespread appeal, and even rookies as celebrated as Nugent-Hopkins, Hall or Stamkos might not sustain the public attention long. A look at the list of recent winners includes Steve Mason, Andrew Raycroft, Tyler Myers, and Barrett Jackman who have been at best average since, and again the focus for the them is no more than six players by the All Star game at the very latest.
An award for an emerging star might however captivate widespread attention. It wouldn’t need to be the most important player on a given team, or even the most valuable at a given position in a year, just someone who’s made their team better and had a much larger impact that previous years. This year alone without even stretching the definition you’d have nominees in Ray Whitney and Mike Smith of the Coyotes, Blake Wheeler of the Jets, Jamie Benn of the Stars, Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes, Ryan O’Reilly of the Avalanche, and half a dozen others. Getting these players and their teams the additional attention of frequent speculation for the award or the win itself can’t hurt the teams revenue. It would undoubtedly lead to more ticket sales in the attendance challenged markets, more merchandise sales in any market, and greater league revenue as hole.