Selling the NHL the right way
People across the United States perceive hockey as a secondary sport just because in terms of public interest, it is a secondary sport.
In some states, they refuse to call hockey one of the four big sports. In the hockey-loving states, we praise the sport saying that hockey used to be one of the four big sports. It's true.
Television ratings could win a limbo contest. Game attendance could take second placed. It's true.
Some people say that they cannot follow the puck on television. OK, this one is not true. If you can't figure out why all those other guys are chasing around one guy, hitting him with body checks, then you're not clear on the concept of the game. And while we're at it, the next time that you watch a baseball game on television (I know it'll be a while, but try to remember this), point every time that you see the baseball. Actually see the ball, not know that someone has it in his glove. You'll be surprised at how little airtime a baseball gets on television. But somehow viewers are able to figure out what's going on with the ball when they're shown an outfielder running and looking up.
Hockey is a regional game with some appeal nationwide. But the NHL is refusing to put any more franchises in Canada insisting on places like Kansas City and Las Vegas to grow the sport. You've been wronged, Hamilton. It's true.
Amid all that bad news, we journalists know that there is just one way to pull this league out of its plummet. And that's with half-truths and outright balderdash. Slant everyone's view and call it PR.
And since I make my living off of the great sport of hockey, I feel obliged to try to help the cause with a few catchy PR slogans. Not one of them mentions jerseys being 14 percent lighter. Feel free to use any that you see fit, Mr. Bettman.
-- "Fire Bettman."
Not sure if you want to use this one, Mr. Bettman, but having a commissioner who isn't focused on growing a sport in non-traditional areas would help a great deal right now. Hamilton would have sold out every game. And I'm not sure that someone watching on television in Los Angeles really cares whether he's watching a game in Nashville or Hamilton. Nothing lost. Lots to gain.
-- "Bare-knuckle fighting … there's your ultimate fighting."
Fighting majors are up in the NHL. Fighting sells. The league is trying to sell the sport as non-barbaric in hopes of drawing new viewers. It's not working. Let's try to draw in the pro-barbarians as new viewers. Pro-barbarians have money too.
-- "Jeff Gordon vs. Al Sobotka … on ice. My money's on Al."
Any reference to NASCAR is a good reference. Tie yourself to a winner.
-- "The NHL is more environmentally friendly than NASCAR. Zambonis get better gas mileage than stock cars."
Still riding that long NASCAR coattail.
-- "Baseball is boring."
It never hurts to slam competition that is struggling.
-- "Let's see how accurate of a shot Tiger Woods is after Chris Pronger lays him out."
-- "Figure skaters hit like … figure skaters."
You used to be able to use the phrase "hit like Swedes", but now Swedes hit hard. Sad but true, figure skating is tough television competition for the NHL.
-- "NBA refs have a gambling scandal. We're trying to put a team in Vegas."
The nation loves Las Vegas. I know this goes against the whole pro-Hamilton thing, but Vegas sells. And what better union of Vegas and professional team sports than with hockey? No one can figure out hockey odds.