How the NHL Should Use "Special" Games to Build Exposure

David HeereSenior Analyst IJuly 23, 2008

There is a ton of coverage and conversation in the hockey world about this year's Winter Classic in Chicago.


The sad part is that this coverage seems to be limited to the hockey world, and no other sports people I talk to have even heard about it. I have not even been yelled at by a Cubs fan for hockey trespassing on their sacred field.


No one outside of hockey knows about the NHL opening their season in Europe, or the Rangers participation in the 2008 Victoria Cup.


I doubt that the 2009 All-Star Game will be a big hit, especially compared to the blockbuster show that the MLB put on.


I sat down in my thinking chair, and came up with some interesting solutions for the NHL's lack of exposure.


I love the whole idea of the Winter Classic. It represents hockey at its finest, and really touches players and fans on a deep level.


It would be like watching the Celtics play a pick-up game with the Lakers on the local blacktop. How about the Red Sox and the Yankees playing in a sandlot for the neighborhood trophy made from a really cool rock duct-taped to a couple of sticks?


The Winter Classic is sports at its finest. The only problem I have with the Winter Classic is that it is considered a regular-season game. The game is anything but regular, so why should it be a part of the regular season?


The conditions of the ice are different and the atmosphere is different, so in that respect it is not fair to the two teams that play to have it count as one of their 82 games.


I have come up with the solution: Combine the All-Star Game with the Winter Classic. Have the All-Star teams play on an outdoor rink.


Everything about it seems so perfect to me. There are more seats, so more fans can attend, and the league would combine two "special" game ideas. That should increase coverage.


If the NHL actually were to do this, I am pretty sure they would generate a substantial amount of buzz about the event. The only problem would be that once people see the All-Star Game, they might be turned off by the retarded relay race.


The game is fine, the fastest skater competition is fine, the hardest shot conest is fine, and the shooting accuracy competition is fine—but the league should get rid of the stupid Mickey Mouse passing drills.


They should also make the game worth something, like in baseball. The winning conference should get to be the home team for the Stanley Cup Finals.


I also wanted to give my two cents on the European road trip to kick off the regular season.


First of all, I am severely against playing regular-season games overseas. At the highest level, it is not fair to that team’s fans that get fewer games to see their team play. From the team's perspective, it really sucks to start your season off by flying around the world.


Eastern Conference teams complain about having to go to Western Canada, and the league responds by flying them out to Prague?


The whole reason we are given for this inconvenience is that is spreads our product to other countries—but this is complete bull, since both the Czech Republic and Sweden have their own much-respected hockey leagues!


If Gary Bettman really wanted to spread the joy of the NHL, he should start right here in North America. Play a game in Kansas City or Portland, or give those neglected people in Hamilton, Ontario some love.


If you want to play exhibition games against European or Russian teams, go right ahead—but do not take regular season games away from the NHL's loyal fans just so you can try to sell more Crosby jerseys in Europe.