Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How to save the NHL in one simple step

So, the NHL has decided to have a game outside, at Ralph Wilson Stadium (home of the Buffalo Bills) matching the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Buffalo Sabres. This is one of the many attempts to make the NHL relevant again after sitting out a whole season a few years ago, and it will fail too. Nevermind the fact that this game will be on New Year's Day, a day always reserved for college football Bowl games, that will refuse to take a backseat to the NHL. The ratings will be nothing, the sport will not be any better than it was going into the day. There will not be one move or PR stunt that finally vaults the NHL back to where they think they once were, just not happening. There is one thing that could make the NHL better, as far as reaching out to fans that could care less about what transpires in their sport, like me:

Change when you play the season.

Currently, the NHL runs opposite of the NFL, NBA, College Football, Baseball's Opening Day AND World Series, College Basketball, the "Race for the Cup" AND the Daytona 500 portions of the NASCAR season. NO other sport runs up against more, and no other sport can ill afford to run up against more. This is basically like FOX running American Idol, NBC running Heroes, CBS running CSI, and ABC deciding to air "A Very Special" According to Jim. Right now, the NHL regular season runs from October to April, all they would have to do is flip it. Start the season in April, end it in October, with the playoffs running until mid- November. So, instead of having the dog days of your season attempting to share focus with the BCS, NFL Playoffs, Superbowl, the Final Four, and Opening day (an absolute BRUTAL stretch) they now will have their dog days coinciding with Major League Baseball's.

If I were the NHL, I would much rather go against MLB rather than the NFL. This should be obvious as to why, but I'll say it anyway. Three of the biggest selling points of Hockey is physicality, speed, and precision, which are three things you can also find in the NFL. In fact, I have had a few arguements with Hockey nuts as to what is a harder sport to play: the NFL or NHL. The problem is, that this point is moot because there is NO WAY, even if you could get sports fans to admit that hockey is more physical, fast, and precise, that NFL fans would then abandon thier sport and watch hockey. The NHL is trying to compete with the biggest fanbase among pro sports at the same time, with the same selling points. It just will not work. There are a great many football fans (and sports fans in general) that don't like baseball because the game is too slow. Wouldn't the NHL be a viable option at this point for those fans?

I have been accused of unfairly bashing the NHL because I don't understand the good aspects of the sport. I don't, and one of the main reasons why I don't is because I don't watch it. The main reason I don't watch it is because there is always some other sport I'd rather watch. Take tonight for example. Tonight would be the PERFECT night to air the NHL All-Star Game, or have a game outside, or do something else that can draw attention to the game. Hey, there's a reason that NASCAR has jumped the NHL as the fourth sport in the "Big Four" triumvrate. The Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of NASCAR runs a few weeks after the actual Super Bowl, before march madness. The NHL doesn't need a radical new strategy to attract fans, they just need a new calendar.

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