Is Hockey Really Making Strides?

February 19, 2008 by Tyler  
Filed under NHL Business

Hockey NewsIn a recent article surrounding popular sports at the web magazine Deadspin; they uncovered a research study completed by Harris Interactive in which the results are quite favorable for NHL Hockey.

Now, we shouldn’t get too wound up about the results of this survey. It was just recently when we conducted a less-than-scientific study of how popular the NHL is with internet users.

What Does It Mean?

According to Harris Interactive, who has published scientific research regarding the popularity of professional sports since 1985, the National Hockey League is now more popular the the NBA and the PGA!

Even one of the most outspoken NBA owners, Mark Cuban, has been touting the popularity and marketing power of the National Hockey League.

“People in the States underestimate (hockey),” he said. “More people watch Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights than watch NBA basketball on Thursday night in the States. People in the U.S. don’t realize that. They don’t realize there are more hockey fans in a country of (32.8) million than there are NBA fans in the U.S. (population 300 million).

If John Collins and the rest of the NHL’s marketing team are listening out there, take heed of Mr. Cuban’s words. Mark Cuban made this comment over one year ago and it strikes me as brilliant.

“I’d be out there promoting the NHL’s combined TV viewer ship in the U.S. and Canada. But it doesn’t happen.”

Perception is Everything

Cuban continued on to parallel this idea to that of the release of a blockbuster Hollywood movie. The numbers portrayed by the film company for the opening weekend of a movie are not just from Canada or just from the United States, but a combined number. This combined number gives the general public the perception that it is a big deal. Stating a combined North American viewer ship for NHL hockey games could similarly give the general public the perception that the NHL too is a big deal.

Follow The Leader

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the National Hockey League’s proverbial cheeks should be blushing following the latest news that the National Basketball Association plans on holding a pre-season game outdoors on October 11, 2008 in Phoenix, AZ.

According to ESPN, the NBA is planning on holding the game between the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The venue is expected to seat 16,000 fans and is scheduled to be televised on Versus TNT.

This is what the top brass from the Phoenix Suns had to say about the event (following a few sips of NBA Kool-Aid):

“What will happen here will be historic,” Rick Welts, the Suns’ president and chief operating officer, said Tuesday. “More importantly, I think this will be a lot of fun. Most of us learned how to play basketball outdoors. This had the perfect circumstances to do it in the NBA.”

As the NHL discovered, doing something out of the ordinary is favored by fans – especially when the game’s superstars are involved. The NBA also followed suit by involving the game’s biggest stars in the event. The Suns feature mega stars Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal; while the Denver Nuggets boast marquee players, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. This certainly was not an accident.

For the sake of the fans of the NBA, let’s hope that the league continues to value the average fan of the game.

Who Buys The Tickets?

I have stood up to be counted as the first one to applaud the NHL’s Marketing efforts and I still believe that the league, for the most part, is heading in the right direction. It is true that the NHL is bringing the entertainment of hockey to more people through more media outlets. However, I can’t help but feel sorry for the average hockey fan who longs to watch his favorite team take the ice at the arena on Saturday night – but can afford to do so maybe once per season.

I strongly echo the sentiments of Jamie Fitzpatrick and wonder who the real winners are in this game business of hockey? When the latest buzzwords uttered during our favorite sports newscasts are marketing, growth, franchise equity, TV rights fees, branding, celebrity athletes, merchandising and licensing – it definitely doesn’t bode well for the fans of the sport.

Remember the fans?

What happened to the huge blue letters that adorned each end of every NHL arena following the lockout? Just to refresh your memory- it read “Thank You Fans”. What happened to that fan appreciation?

What added value have teams provided the Blue-Collar Dad who buys the tickets and pays inflated prices for hats and jerseys for his kids, just to see the glowing smiles on their faces as they see their favorite player in person for the first time.

What value has this father of two received for shelling out 25% of his monthly salary to take his family of four to a professional hockey game?

I propose that when the Oilers and Mr. Katz build the new arena in Edmonton, that they forgo installing individual seats and simply fill the arena with corporate luxury boxes. After all, the NHL is a business and corporate sponsors will soon be footing the bill as the dream of attending an NHL game drifts further from reality for the average hockey fan.

Here’s to the hockey fan – Cheers!


One Comment on "Is Hockey Really Making Strides?"

  1. Dan Meade on Mon, 1st Jun 2009 7:34 pm 

    I just want to say thank goodness for Versus. What would we do here in the US if we didn’t have them to carry the games during the regular season and then all the playoff games. They do a wonderful job also.
    Dan Meade
    San Antonio TX

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