Thursday, August 2, 2007


Did you hear the news? What do you mean what news? The Big news! News so big, it’s gonna blow yer freakin’ mind. The biggest news of the day! I know, I know, I can hardly contain myself too! The hype is killing me! Get ready (you might want to sit down for this), here it comes…….Zach Parise just signed a new 4 year deal worth $12.5 million!!! Can you believe it??!!! I get goose bumps every time I say it!!!

Well, at least that’s how it should have gone. You see, I happen to be a firm believer in that the NHL’s American audience woes are borderline self-inflicted. It’s more of a case of missing opportunities to promote the league and down right not seeing what’s right there in front of them. I know, everyone says it’s because they don’t have a solid TV deal and not everyone gets the channel. But really folks, the plain and simple fact is that hockey just isn’t a TV sport. It’s a live game. The “casual fan” doesn’t get it because it doesn’t translate effectively on television. If the casual fan went to a game to see the action live, they would be hooked. They would take an interest in learning how the game is played and in turn be able to decipher what they see on the screen when it’s on. I’d be willing to bet that a good majority of them would be looking for when it’s on. Stay with me folks; this is where I get you. There is not only a missed opportunity there but a self-inflicted wound as well. Let me explain, the reason that the casual fan can’t (or won’t) go to a game lies in the fact that the casual fan in the U.S. can’t afford to take their families on a regular basis. Everyone talks about how in the good ole’ days the arenas were packed and how hard it was to get a ticket. I for one remember this well; I grew up in some of those arenas going to games where the crowds were huge. That’s because the league had its audience then, it was before the corporate influence and investors took the working class fan and drove them out with high prices. Back then a sellout meant that all of the seats were taken and actually had people sitting in them. Today as long as the seats were sold it’s a sellout, even if most of the seats are empty. Now, back to the point. In the haste to gobble up all of that corporate money, the league forgot about their bread and butter. These are the people who still are fans and still love the game only they can’t afford to spend $300 - $500 a whack to take their family of four to see it. If the NHL really wants to attract the casual fan, they need to make it easier for them to see a game live so they in turn view it when they find it on TV. Which brings me to the missed opportunity. The NHL flat out does a poor job promoting itself. Just about the only place you can catch an ad for an upcoming game is on the network the games are on. How does this make any sense? Where are the ads on the other channels reminding people to tune in? Where is the ad with Gordie Howe demanding that we tune in to the Rangers vs. Flyers game or else he’ll give us the peoples elbow? Where’s the Tuesday Night Hockey format with all of the hype surrounding it? It’s great that the league has the Crosbys and Ovechkins to be able to promote and they do a good job with that, but in the U.S. they can only carry so much. The U.S. audience needs a U.S. kid to be promoted and it would do the league some good to realize that. Parise is a perfect candidate (you see how I did that, came full circle {wink}). Think about it, Minn. native, went to North Dakota, 1st round draft choice, young intelligent player, great NHL linage, plays just outside of New York, puts up great numbers. There is a ton to promote there only they don’t see it. Give the U.S. audience something to be proud of, test their patriotism by introducing a kid like this to the American public and demanding that they tune in to watch. The U.S. public would buy into a hometown hero quicker than warm up to a Canadian or Russian kid. This is just one example. There are many more where the league misses the boat, like their complete failure to promote youth hockey when they have the chance. Last season the All-Star game was held in Dallas. Texas is one of the fastest growing states in terms of youth hockey in the nation. Where was the celebration of the grassroots explosion? Where was the on ice presentations to the best that youth hockey has to offer? Where was anything involving a kid besides the camera shots of them passing through the gates? Where was the format for youth hockey all-stars to play on the big ice while their heroes were in town? The chance to skate with their heroes? They had a week of festivities, and found no time to squeeze anything in? It’s a shame too; these are the future fans, players and officials as well as corporate and political leaders. The NHL could be doing so much more to help themselves but somehow fail to recognize the treasures that surround them. Oh well, at least I was excited when I heard the news of the Parise signing. I thought that it was one of the best items of the day and one of the best deals signed this off-season. He could become their leading scorer again this year and start paving his way to becoming a future leader of the team. For him to sign a contract that keeps him in a Devils uniform for at least the next four years at an affordable rate, speaks volumes about this kids character especially when you factor in the cap struggles and recent player losses of the team. He is the type of player the Devils can build around and now they have the opportunity to do so. It should have been made into a big deal here in the States, catching the eyes of the casual fan. Instead it was relegated to the small blurbs and back pages and was only cheered within the hockey circles of existing fan base. The NHL has a think tank right? Maybe they need to start thinking about how they can do a better job of helping themselves to strengthen it’s visibility in the U.S. Here’s a hint: start with the kids and work your way up, promote U.S. kids playing in the NHL in the U.S., in your face self promotion works in the U.S. (American viewers are for the most part lazy and need to be told what to watch), set up a format similar to Monday Night Football and hype it to the max (even get a celebrity fan in on the show), have a solid half hour show nightly recapping action (give it a catchy name and hype that as well), and for God’s sake lower the ticket prices so your faithful fans and new fans can go to a live game on a regular basis. Great, now my coffee is cold.


Anonymous said...

perfectly stated, in my opinion. to market the sport in America, market and American player who actually performs well in the sport and generates enough buzz in the hockey circle.

I'm an NJ native, so the Parise signing just made my day. or the next four years. :]

GREGSKY said...

It never fails to amaze me how many times the league cuts off its own nose to spite its face. Maybe they need to add a few more Americans to think tank to give it a kick in the ass. I'm happy for you and all Devils fans with the Parise signing. He's a future captian. Thanks for posting.