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05-13-2010, 08:40 PM
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Again, it's a very complicated subject but like all niche products, you build from within. I'll try to explain the NHL's strategy for growing the game in very simple terms, but please remember this is a generalization.

First, you build up the individual teams by getting them to games and becoming fans. The #1 way people become hockey fans is being through family and watching a live game. This obviously takes time (look at the Devils' attendance and how they have a large group of younger season ticket holders proportional with their streak of success), but it's a proven method. That also works in increasing rink access and getting young kids to play the game, which is something that helps the league two-fold (more hockey players and athletes from more locations - this is something you see in the LA area right now twenty years after the Gretzky era - and more fans).

You then take your base and strengthen it by getting them interested in watching games which don't involve your team. That's a big problem for the league as the majority of games are watched by fans of the two teams. Due to that, the league has the "history will be made" commercials which play on a sense of nostalgia and the joy of watching the playoffs and are targeted towards hockey fans who might not be willing to watch playoff games between two teams.

Finally, you take your strong base and then build upon it with a casual fans. Obviously the NHL is not entirely there yet, but once there's more national support, that's when you get the media coverage (both local and national) that many people on here piss and moan. Coverage is a two-way street and there needs to be a want by the fans. It doesn't come out of nowhere and in the US (as opposed to Canada where the NHL essentially competes with the CFL - a league which plays in its offseason - and local Toronto teams to compete) there's a crowded landscape. We're seeing more coverage of the NHL by ESPN and other national outlets because of the higher ratings and more colorful players (I'm looking at you Alex Ovechkin), but the ongoing goal would be to increase it yearly and cause a higher demand for television rights.

Blog: First Round Bust: A Cast of Thousands celebrating a rather dodgy track record of Minnesota Wild Drafting.

"Will beats skill when skill doesn't have enough will."
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