Alexander Monaghan of The Red Light District asks possibly the most important question facing the National Hockey League his examination of the facts is cogent and the tour of recent history, is quite good. The problem is the answer is wrong because it to closely reflects the question.
The NHL does not need a new poster boy, it needs several. Thirty is probably too much to ask, but ten to twelve isn’t out of the question. Look at all 30 NHL markets while there are similar tastes in team style spread across the league, the recent kerfuffle between between the Boston and Vancouver fan-bases (and media, and blogs, not to mention the teams and their coaches and management) not all fans agree on what’s best or most entertaining.
Despite the history between the two markets the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins fans can usually agree on not much more than that theirs is the best rivalry in sports. The Bruins have been built on elite defensemen like Orr, Park, and Bourque. The Canadiens success has revolved around masked men like Dryden and Roy. Not to say these have been the only stars for either franchise, but just ask fans who the greatest names are for either team, it’s unlikely any fan will fail to mention those names.
The Detroit Red Wings are another franchise that has enjoyed success. The model they used doesn’t closely resemble that of either the Bruins or Canadiens, nor is it a mirror image of the great New York Islanders teams. The team the Red Wings faced in their last two Stanley Cup finals appearances the Pittsburgh Penguins used the same model with Crosby and Malkin to achieve success as they did a generation before with Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
Some cities go for an all offense all the time format and it sells well and consistently there. In other cities if you aren’t an elite goaltender you’re garbage. In a place like Nashville if you don’t play a quiet, solid two way form of hockey you can find your way across the border anytime. Vancouver has developed a severe allergy to highly physical players but probably has the largest collection of agitators over the last few seasons. The great Dallas Stars cup winning team was a strongly defensive team and about no one could confuse it for anything else.
All these teams, and most others have a strong identity, some of them build across as much as a century. Team identity and in market appeal is something every other league stresses. The NFL doesn’t just market Aaron Rodgers, no matter where you live you’ll hear about players not on the Miami Heat. Pitchers, catchers, and right fielders and designated hitters all get their time in the spotlight. How in the world have the NHL powers that be failed to realize this? If anything the fact that the return of Crosby earlier this year to truly dismal television ratings, and the solid playoff ratings that the marketing of one plan was a failure, but it did not.
We still see commercials filled with guys you’re only gonna recognize if you live in a given market or near a rival team. No one’s ever introduced, just shown in generic adds like an auto add where the sports coupe is shown center stage and other cars by the manufacturer are littering the background. The NHL36 show is a nice idea, but the execution probably needs to be. Patrice Bergeron is one of the two or three most well rounded players in the entire league, Patrick Kane shares the distinction of being a Stanley Cup clinching goal but are either of them vibrant magnetic personalities that will captivate people in 22 minutes of film? God’s no. Even Bergeron’s brother asked him if they were going to catch him talking enough to fill the show.
How much more revenue could the NHL generate with effective marketing? All the non arena revenue seems to be ignored by NHL The only possible exception to this is the way merchandise for the Stanley Cup champions is hammered down the throat of anyone watching a broadcast from the finals through the first quarter of the season. With more effective marketing, people in Kansas City who fell in love with the way the Predators play could account for hundreds or thousands of cable and internet subscribers. Of the millions of people who pass through the big college cities like Boston and New York City who fall for local teams and go home or land jobs elsewhere, they two can contribute to the NHL’s bottom line. There are almost 350 million people between the USA and Canada, if the league can market itself well enough to secure just one million more Gamecenter subscribers that’s a huge revenue stream. It doesn’t even count the advertising revenue that can be built into Gamecenter, or any of the other inroads the NHL should be making.