Blogs > Red Wings Corner

Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Selling the NHL the right way

I don't know if you've heard, but the NHL has a PR problem. It's true.
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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce, you said, "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."

No offense, Bruce, I do NOT believe the NHL will work in Las Vegas primarily because they have short attention spans here and they only love winners. This town is now about 65% transplants and they have their own loyalties to teams they grew up with.

How do I know this? I'm a transplant Detroiter who's been living in Las Vegas since 1996. If the Red Wings play the local team (on the assumption that Las Vegas does indeed get an NHL team), I can guarantee you the Wings fans will flock to Las Vegas in droves and sell out the proposed $300 million arena being planned behind Bally's. No doubt Bettman is going to put a spin on that particular game and say out of his fathead, "Look, I told you the game will work in Las Vegas."

But what happens when the Wings are NOT in town? I can pretty much guarantee that there are about 1,000 Wings fans here in Las Vegas. Even fewer will support hockey because it's hockey. It's a stretch to ask that much of the local hockey fanbase to support hockey at every home game regardless of the visiting team. In other words, us hockey fans aren't going to shoulder the survival of hockey by ourselves in Las Vegas. We can only do so much...esp. if the league restructures to return the Wings back to the Eastern Conference where they rightly belong.

November 6, 2007 at 12:24 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You would make a much better commish than Bettman.

November 6, 2007 at 12:44 AM 
Blogger Bruce MacLeod said...

Thank you. I count on your support if this becomes an open election.

November 6, 2007 at 8:50 AM 
Blogger Bruce MacLeod said...

I agree about hockey not being a good idea in Vegas. The comment that the nation loves Vegas was just for humor.
But if you want the Red Wings in the East, then you'd better pull for a new team in Vegas. There's no restructuring of the current 30 teams that could put the Wings in the East.

November 6, 2007 at 8:52 AM 
Blogger Jeff said...

The "not-seeing-the-puck-on-TV" argument doesn't wash with me either. I point to American football, the most popular sport in the U.S., as an example. Before the ball is hiked, viewers can't see it. When it is the quarterback is covering it. If he hands it off to the runningback he covers it. Only when the ball is passed or kicked can viewers see it.

November 6, 2007 at 10:30 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The comment that the nation loves Vegas was just for humor."

LOL! I getcha, Bruce, and I completely understand the intriguing prospect of landing a major profile sports team in Las Vegas has the sports nation in breathless anticipation.

"But if you want the Red Wings in the East, then you'd better pull for a new team in Vegas."

No, not really. I think Kansas City would be a more feasible choice as they have a longer history with hockey than Las Vegas. I would root for them to have an NHL team. Heck, Bruce, we have a fantastic team in the ECHL's Las Vegas Wranglers and they're not selling out a 7,800 seat arena.


November 6, 2007 at 11:11 PM 

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