I had the pleasure, or lack thereof, of visiting the NHL store in New York City today—which, up until one week ago, I didn't even know existed. It was just another sad disappointment by the NHL front office to market the league.
Let me preface this next part by saying that I do not like the NBA. I find the games, with the exception of some in the playoffs, boring and predictable. That having been said, the NBA store in New York City offers so much more than the NHL one does.
Before you can see what is in each store, you have to find them. A blind person couldn’t miss the front of the NBA store, with its gigantic front on Fifth Avenue.
However, this was not the case with the NHL one. Perhaps I was expecting something like the NBA store front and got what was the equivalent to a McDonalds.
The NBA store front screams, “Come on in! Buy something! Shoot around!” The NHL store front doesn't scream, but rather whispers, “If you want, you can come in, and if not, Gap is around the corner.”
The NBA store website says that the store has “35,000 square feet covering two retail floors, a 170-foot-long, arena-styled, circular ramp, an authentic half-court shooting area with regulation-size basketball hoop, and a range of multimedia-driven attractions including: video games, interactive player video wall, and an arena-sized Jumbotron video board (and other monitors throughout the Store) air exclusive NBA and WNBA footage, live game broadcasts and NBA TV.”
The NHL store was about half the size of the NBA mall, I mean store, if that much. Had there been other people in the store, I might have had little room to move.
The only electronics that the NHL store had to offer were a few flat-screens replaying old highlights and two small televisions where NHL 2008 could be played with controllers that didn’t even work – believe me, I tried.
Oh, but there’s more!
I’ve been in the NBA store before. They have authentic jerseys, replica jerseys, throwback jerseys, practice jerseys, limited-edition T-shirts, player figurines, and a whole load of other stuff I didn’t even know existed. If that weren’t enough to attract customers, you can even have your own birthday party there. Heck, I’m 21 and I am considering it as an option for my next birthday.
While the NHL did have a wide variety of collectibles to choose from, nothing was overly impressive, just overpriced. What’s worse is that they didn’t have enough. The NHL store in NYC is supposed to be the place to find anything and everything of NHL, but the store fell a couple hundred items short.
But, let’s forget about the prices and what the store didn’t have, let me talk about what the store did have.
For starters, half of the merchandise was either Detroit or Pittsburgh-related, in order to promote the Stanley Cup Finals. Alright, I guess that’s understandable.
I then realized that half of the Pittsburgh merchandise had Sidney Crosby and/or his number on it. They even had a Sidney Crosby action figure, which I have to admit, was kind of cool.
Since Detroit and Pittsburgh consumed 50 percent of the merchandise, the other 28 teams comprised the other 50 percent. However, certain teams were still favored more than others, namely Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Buffalo, Los Angeles, and Montreal.
I was slightly confused as to why a few of those teams were promoted so much throughout the store. And then, I realized that they were all cities that sent a good number of tourists to New York City every day (with the exception of Buffalo, which is just New York state pride)—thus, it would only make sense to have their merchandise available.
But still, teams, including the New York Islanders – even I forgot they were a team – were poorly represented throughout the store. Meanwhile, the NBA store has a different section for each team in their store, regardless if it is the Boston Celtics or the Memphis Grizzlies.
My point is that the NHL needs to start promoting other things. I understand that it is the Stanley Cup Finals and the league would like to make sure fans support the two teams that are currently the NHL’s best, but the sport will never expand if attention is never paid to teams like Tampa Bay or Phoenix.
Let’s forget about the stores for a second. I can always catch a commercial on ESPN or NBC with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, or Shaquille O’Neal. The only NHL commercial I’ve seen, besides Crosby’s Gatorade (which was very well-done), is Ryan Miller’s Amp Energy Drink ad.
But Miller’s commercial was funny. I’ve heard people who don’t even like hockey say how good it was. So, why doesn’t the NHL do more of that? Take a future star of the league, someone besides Crosby, and get their face out there.
Maybe the store will expand. Maybe the NHL is working on better promotions. Maybe I need to be more patient. The NBA store is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, while the NHL store hasn’t even reached its 10-month anniversary. Only time will tell where the NHL store ends up.