NHL Concludes Successful Season… Now What?

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NHL Concludes Successful Season… Now What?
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The NHL just finished its most successful playoffs in decades. The commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman could not have asked for more to promote his league. He got an entertaining seven game series between the three best young talents in the league (Crosby & Malkin vs. Ovechkin) in the Eastern Conference championships and an even more entertaining Stanley Cup finals, which was a rematch of last year’s finals.
This year, of course, the new guard, Pittsburgh Penguins triumphed over the old guard, Detroit Red Wings in another grueling seven game series.

So what now?

As a former employee of the NBA and co-worker of David Stern, Gary Bettman should know better than sit on his hands and let a successful NHL season go to waste.

For years, the NHL has been struggling to find selling points to market their game across America. After a Stanley Cup playoffs that we just witnessed, the NHL’s marketing staff has a limitless amount of material that they can use to bring national attention back to the NHL.

First off, ESPN should be begging the NHL to sign a television deal.

Since coming back from the lockout in 2005, the NHL has struggled to find an American broadcast television company to inherit the NHL. After realizing that the broadcasting games on the Outdoor Life Network would be a bust, the NHL settled on having the games on Versus and periodically on NBC.

Based on the numbers from this past Stanley Cup playoffs, people are watching the NHL again.

Versus has done an amazing job with their NHL coverage, but having the NHL on ESPN would give the game unbelievable growth in the United States. With ESPN’s ability to commercialize any sport, it would give the NHL the necessary attention it needs to develop a strong fan base in the United States. It would also give ESPN another outlet that they can reach out to.

However, the NHL should realize that their scheduling committee needs to come up with better strategies. Although the NHL playoffs was far more entertaining than the NBA playoffs, the NHL should realize that they are still at the bottom of the totem pole and concede playoff prime time hours to David Stern and the NBA.

However, on nights when the NBA is not on, the NHL should dominate those hours.

On a number of nights during the playoffs, the NHL was going head to head with the NBA —a match up that heavily favors the latter. The NHL scheduling committee needs to recognize this a act accordingly.

Secondly, take some notes on what the NBA has done and give players more publicity.

Maxime Talbot scored two goals in game seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs and his name remains foreign in the United States. Even Evgeni Malkin, who won the Art Ross Trophy and Conn Smyth trophy, is still not a common household name.

On the other hand, Trevor Ariza, a role player for the Los Angeles Lakers is hailed throughout the country for being a defensive specialist who can explode to the basket. But he never hit a game winning shot. He never led the league in points.

He’s a role player.

But thanks to a human interest story here, a spot on the Jimmy Kimmel show there, and throw in adoration from the ESPN announcers; Trevor Ariza is now a household name.

A role player is now a household name. Evgeni Malkin is not a role player—he is a star—but not a household name. Maxime Talbot is a role player, and with the help of NHL marketing strategies he too can be a household name.

Speaking of Jimmy Kimmel, and late night shows in general, why hasn’t a representative of the Pittsburgh Penguins been on late night television yet? A few nights after the Lakers won their NBA title, Kobe Bryant was on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. A week later, the entire Laker team was on Jimmy Kimmel Live, which was a huge hit.

In both circumstances, especially on Kimmel, the United States was introduced to the other players on the championship team. Everyone already knows Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher. America, thanks to Jimmy Kimmel, now knows who DJ Mbenga, Shannon Brown and of course, Trevor Ariza. They were allowed to show their many personalities in a way that they would not be able to while playing basketball.

Gary Bettman and the NHL marketing department, get the Pens on late night talk shows. Even if it means playing the newly wed game, the league needs publicity and the players deserve it for concluding a very successful season.

I should correct myself at this point. Bettman and the NHL have not been sitting on their hands since the conclusion of the season.

There are rumblings that the NHL will add another game to the Winter Classic to make it a doubleheader. The game is apparently going to be held in Calgary where the Flames will host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Winter Classic is one of a few things that the NHL has going for them. The past two Winter Classics have been unbelievable events that celebrate hockey. More importantly, it is the only NHL event that is recognized by the greater American media. Why ruin a good thing?

Keep it to one game. Keep the Winter Classic sacred. Keep the attention centralized.

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