(Photo: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE)

An Attempt To Rebrand The NHL

(Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE)

With all this All Star Game talk flooding my twitter feed, it’s been rather hard to ignore (like I usually do, sitting around waiting for the Calgary Flames to come back).  The most surprising is the late minute withdraw of Alexander Ovechkin, citing his suspension will detract from the game.  Per NHL rules, because he was invited to the game, his suspension would not interfere with his playing if he so choses to participate.  A fellow Fansided writer, Sally M. Brown of Cardiac Cane, had much to say about Ovechkin Tuesday night when he announced his decision not to play:

@Esbee92 I swear this is my last tweet about Ovi. If you want to be the face of the NHL you have to actually BE THE FACE OF THE NHL.

Which prompted a response from me:

@_CaitMonster But is he really? I feel like they’ve given up on him lately

This simple question created a lengthy back and forth between her and I, leading us both to do a post on it seeing as Twitter would not allow us to ruminate on this, okay maybe not ruminate but think and discuss this way more than the allowed space of Twitter.  You can see to the conclusion Sally came to on Cardiac Cane or right here.  (Make sure to follow Sally on Twitter!  She’s good fun and knows her hockey!)

I’ll wait for you to finish.

I’m assuming since you clicked more you’re ready for my views.

While I do agree with my fellow hockey fan that someone needs to replace Ovechkin as the face of the NHL, even more so now that Sidney Crosby is sidelines with head injuries.  And as we both thought about it, we agreed that the face of the NHL needs to be recognizable to those not fully into the sport.  As you read, the idea of having an American as well as the Canadian Sidney Crosby represent the league would be the best way to brand the sport to the American population.

But, as I thought back and thought about this I started to doubt myself and this idea.  The NHL was founded in 1917, the Original Six era followed a few decades later in 1942.  With those original six teams, four of the six were in the US.  Even still today, all but 7 teams are south of the Canadian-American boarder.  Now what this says to me is nearly 100 years of professional hockey, with 70 years of resembling a league, with 30 teams competing for a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup.

What does this all say to me?  The NHL will never be on the same level as the MLB, NFL, NBA, or any of the dozen soccer leagues they have all over the world.  Each of the four major league sports in the US had roughly the same start, with MLB coming first in 1869, followed by the NHL in 1917, the NFL in 1920, and the NBA just a few years after Original Six era started in 1946.  None of these leagues received a head start in gaining popularity, for the better part of a century, all four leagues have grown.  The NHL is the only league with a consistent Canadian presence with 7 teams, there’s none in the NFL and one remaining team in the MLB and NBA.  And yet the NHL is constantly at the bottom rung of the American sports world.

(Photo: James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE)

It’s been almost 100 years!  Let’s stop trying to be like the others!  Let’s embrace the niche aspect of this great sport.  Yes, expanding brings in money, but there are so many teams who currently are struggling to stay afloat.  Why are you going to add the burden and hurt teams who are able to make it work?  We have this wonderful underground sport, don’t sink it by trying to appeal to the masses.  Use Crosby as the face, find adopted hometown heroes and market them for your team.  If you live the the Vancouver area, wouldn’t you be interested in ginger twins skating about? Or Kesslurking? Nashville native?  The Webeard must pique some curiosity.  Fan of the Disney movie?  Stop by and watch some really Duck action with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.  There are ways to grow without having an over arching, appeal to everyone face.

(Photo: Jean-Yves Ahern-US PRESSWIRE)

Having a player who could double as Jaws from the James Bond movies is not going to get as many people to watch the sport as someone who plays in your city.  As for Crosby, as much as it pains me, if marketed correctly, he’s a great face.  He’s approachable, he’s harmless looking, he is someone kids want to meet.  For those big grabs the NHL is so desperate to get, go to the individual teams and market their players better.  Because if you have Crosby and one other guy do all that work, unless you live by a team in their division, you’ll see them a few times a season at best.  You’re not targeting everyone constantly.  Picking one or two guys from your team to make “the face” and plug them constantly?  Well every home game is a chance to create new fans.

It eliminates this need to find that “apple pie” back story, it gives talented players more recognition, and creates a whole blanket of faces that new fans can relate to.

So here’s to embracing the niche market, to give the fans more, and to one wicked awesome All Star Game Weekend!


Go Iggy Go!

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Tags: Alex Ovechkin All Star Game Cardiac Canes Rebranding NHL Sidney Crosby

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