NHL Broadcasts Go Global

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIINovember 5, 2011

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 21:  Team Russia celebrate on the bench after Viktor Kozlov scored a second period goal during the ice hockey men's preliminary game between Russia and Czech Republic on day 10 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 21, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Hard on the heels of its new television contract with Scandinavia, the NHL will see its games broadcast on two more continents and much more extensively in Europe.

The NHL announced on its website that it is has signed television deals to have its games broadcast this year in Europe from Ireland and the UK in the west, to Cypress and Bulgaria in the east.

The most significant hockey markets that will be able to see games are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany and Switzerland.

Almost all of Europe, including Iceland, the Iberian Peninsula and almost all the Balkan states, will now be able to see NHL hockey. Almost 30 European countries have now been added to the Scandinavian total.

The only significant omissions are countries that made up the former USSR, including key hockey markets of Russia, Belarus and Latvia. Perhaps the NHL is negotiating a separate deal with them.

In addition, the NHL will invade Asia and have games broadcast games in Turkey and Israel.

Finally, through agreements with French and Monacan television, hockey will now be seen in sub-Saharan Africa. No list of the African countries has been given.

What can be read into this?

The NHL wants to increase its television revenue, and it is also a significant step in promoting hockey world wide, especially in countries where there has been little interest before.

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 27:  Marian Gaborik #10 of Slovakia celebrates with his team after scoring a goal in the second period during the ice hockey men's bronze medal game between Finland and Slovakia on day 16 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at C
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

But like the Scandinavian deal, does this significant step portend a change in long-term policy for the NHL?

Ever since the first expansion in 1967, the NHL has been obsessed with becoming a "big four" sport in the United States and landing a large American television contract like its three rival leagues.

But hockey is still number four in the United States, and while there has been increased interest in some areas as more teams were added to the league, hockey is still far from attaining the popularity of football, baseball and basketball that the NHL wants.

The NHL recently signed a new American television deal that was better than before but is not on the scale of the NFL, the NBA or MLB.

There is also the embarrassment of having many teams lose money in American cities where hockey is not popular.

So it appears that NHL may be turning in a new direction and gather the television revenue it desperately wants from outside the United States.

Does that mean that future NHL expansion will be abroad and in Canada instead of the US?

He who pays the piper calls the tune, and just as team rosters have become significantly Europeanized, so now is the NHL's television revenue.

What that will mean for the future of the NHL is now wide open to speculation.