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How To Win Back The Fans

from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,

...here are my 10 recommendations for the NHL for when it ever opens shop again, moves that I believe would help the league make itself more appealing to fans and regain some form of relevancy in the marketplace: 

1. Give away the NHL Center Ice package for the entire season after you return, as well as the Game Center package online. If you’re going to beg fans to return, might as well make it easy on them.

2. Ensure that realignment happens for the 2013-14 season. The buzz that surrounded the realignment conversation last season during the NHL’s failed attempt at switching up its conferences and divisions was surreal. Fans loved debating the future look of the league. The NHLPA, which blocked realignment last year, must work with the NHL to make realignment happen for next season. It’s what the fans want.

read on

Filed in: NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink


starsfan26's avatar

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.

Good suggestions, I think numbers one and two are no-brainers.  I’m not sure how many of us would be purchasing Center Ice anyway (I’m taking a few years off out of spite), but I would definitely love it for free!

I think the TV package should include the online games anyway, or at least offer one or two games a night.

The rest of the article is definitely debatable…

Posted by starsfan26 on 12/26/12 at 10:41 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Here we go:

1: I’m definitely in favor of free stuff, having already spent my Center Ice budget elsewhere.
2: Yes to realignment. It automatically adds an interesting twist to returning fans and it makes the conferences make sense for any new fans.
3: If hockey is going to have a week off from the end of the regular season to the beginning of the playoffs, then sure, I might watch the 8th and 9th-best teams fight to make the playoffs….might. It would have to change for realignment anyway.
4: This is not going to help the game grow casual fans. Every single time a world-class player gets injured in a tournament taking place where the games are played at 7am on weekdays, it’s going to hurt things.  Now if tourney games were always held at North-America-friendly times, maybe that’s a deal we can work with, but that’s simply not going to happen.
5: Preserving the novelty of the shootout by overusing the novelty of 3-on-3 OT is trading a burro for a donkey. I personally prefer this because I like hockey goals more than I like shootout goals. If nothing else, this could help inflate goal totals and bring about a “chase” scenario similar to baseball’s post-strike homerun chase which interested fans. We’re not talking breaking single-season records, but having a few guys race to 50 might be helpful.
6: Moving the offseason by three weeks doesn’t bother me, nor does it particularly excite me. I don’t care.
7: I’m ok with having the draft and free agency closer, but then I think they should be later. Those are the two most-interesting things to happen during the hockey offseason, putting them that much closer together increases the amount of days where nothing interesting is happening in hockey.
8: Locking all 30 GMs together in a room for deadline day might lead to some stupid moves. I’m in favor.
9: From travel to timing, I don’t think this will work well.  Again, we’re also running into the problem of NHL teams playing a game at 12pm EST on a Thursday.
10: Take out the mutual opt-out for the 20-year CBA and make it an either/or opt-out. Whichever team ends up “winning” this CBA negotiation is not going to agree to opt out and go right back to work stoppage negotiating. Hell, I’d be in favor of a 30-year CBA if it included annual arbitration windows where the CBA could be amended. Either way, that’s all pipe-dream.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/26/12 at 11:07 AM ET


I’ve said this in other places but get rid of blackouts for GameCentre.  I bought it for Wings games the past couple of seasons and I think last year there were around 16 games (plus playoffs!) I couldn’t watch.  I won’t be giving them that money for at least the first season they come back. There are alternatives out there.

Posted by loojay on 12/26/12 at 11:46 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

@loojay there is currently an antitrust lawsuit against both MLB and the NHL for their blackout policies. This might very well solve your problem fairly soon.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/26/12 at 12:04 PM ET


That is potentially great news. Thanks for making my Boxing Day JJ.

Posted by loojay on 12/26/12 at 12:26 PM ET

Paul From Cali's avatar

I hope everyone had a great Christmas.  It seems like Pierre must have gotten some wacky tobacy because most of his “ideas” are absurd…

1:  This whole entire mess has been about money and you want the NHL to give Center Ice away free?  They’ll probably charge regular full season price for 48 games and then raise the full season price next year.

2:  Realignment makes sense and clearly Don Fehr used it as a bargaining tool last season.  That said I doubt it’ll happen in 13-14.  Probably the next year.  The logistics of rearranging the divisions and the team schedules in 9 months are too difficult.

3:  I hate adding more playoffs.  There’s already 16 teams in the playoffs.  How many more do you need?

4:  Nobody outside of Canada cared about the World Cup.  Much more important to ensure the NHL players go to Sochi and future Olympics.

5:  3 on 3 in OT?  Why not just go straight to the shootout?  I hate this idea.  I still don’t like the shootout because it’s a skills competition, not hockey.  The only compromise I’d make is to go to 3 on 3 and kill the shoot out completely.  At least 3 on 3 resembles pond/street hockey.

6:  The NHL will never shorten the preseason.  That means less games and it goes back to the money thing I mentioned in point #1.  They’ll probably add preseason games and play into July if they think they can keep the fans interest.  And btw, this suggestion from the same guy who 3 points earlier suggesting adding a play in round?  Seems contradictory to me.

7 & 8 don’t really matter to me.  7 makes more sense because at least the teams are already in the same place.  Number 8 requires teams to spend more money to send their delegates to an arena, plus hotel accommodations.  See my money points above.

9:  The NHL in Europe would never work.  Travel costs are too high.  The places in Europe that could support the NHL are too far east (Sweden, Finland, Germany, Russia, etc..) meaning an even larger time difference between USA markets and those European teams.  For fans west of the Eastern Time Zone they’d be watching games in the early early morning, or even overnight.  The USA television networks would need to be able to support games in Europe and they couldn’t justify airing games that early in the morning.  PLUS the difficulty USA based teams would have with the travel.  What are western conference teams supposed to do?  Spend 2 weeks in Europe?  They’d spend half their season asleep on the ice due to all the travel.  It just won’t work.

10:  A 20 year CBA?  That wacky tobacy must have really kicked in by point 10?  Neither side would dream of agreeing to a 20 year CBA.

There’s one simple way to recover from this mess and get the fans back:  Settle the lockout and start playing hockey again!

Posted by Paul From Cali on 12/26/12 at 12:38 PM ET

henrymalredo's avatar

1. The NHL seems pretty confident we’ll all be back.  I doubt they try to bribe fans anymore then just putting a thank you message on the ice.
2. It’ll happen
3. Please, no
4. I don’t see it happening.  There are injury concerns and of course splitting up the season.  The NHL also has never succesfully been able to attach it’s brand to international competition, but thats probably mostly due to legal and logistical concerns.  I would like to continue seeing NHL players in the Olympics though.
5. I actually really like this idea.
6. Yeah, this won’t happen and nobody really cares enough about it.
7. I’m somewhat interested.  I’d prefer having a week long NBA style period right after the draft where impending free agents can talk to other teams before Free Agency starts, as some other writers have suggested.  I think it would encourage more wheeling and dealing.
8.  This would’ve been great in the 90’s and early 00’s when great players actually were actually traded at the deadline, but no one wants a big media event to see what 3rd liners and back-up goalies move.
9. There are a lot of writers that are obsessed with this idea for some reason.  It’ll probably happen someday, but it’ll certainly not be any time soon.  This idea is DOA.
10. It like to see some long term labor peace, but I just don’t see any side agreeing to it.

Posted by henrymalredo from Lansing on 12/26/12 at 01:41 PM ET

WingFanFormerlyInLA's avatar

Almost completely agree PaulfromCali. 

The NHL and NHLPA will ignore the biggest issues, which is too many teams.  That long with the regular season being irrelevant makes it such a hard draw for casual fans.

But the #1 way to win back the fans, bar none is to get rid of Bettman.  Won’t happen though and is the reason I won’t be back.

Posted by WingFanFormerlyInLA on 12/26/12 at 02:27 PM ET


free center ice would have worked for me 7 years ago. today, it doesn’t matter. 29 other teams don’t matter. if it ain’t the wings, and ain’t on fox sports detroit, i ain’t watchin’. i used to be part of that 0.7 share versus got.

reruns of big bang theory (or bowling) will be way more watchable than a tuesday night boston/philly game. same goes for the play-in games and playoffs in general. ain’t the wings? not interested. wings eliminated? not interested.

i’m not ready to walk away from the wings, but whether the league has 6, 16, 26 or 30 teams doesn’t make a lick of difference to me.

Posted by syndrome on 12/26/12 at 02:40 PM ET


1. Truth. I wouldn’t pay for half a season anyway.

2. I’m sort of ambivalent about this. The old Patrick division would could have as many as 3 teams miss the playoffs who are better than a playoff team in the other “East” division. Then again, current arrangements have a lot of problems. Dallas’s “local” competitors are two time zones away.

3. If the NHL expands into Canada, this might make sense. But right now, it doesn’t. Especially with realigment, considering this pre-playoff round would likely occur within division. Does it really matter if the team with the 21st or 22nd best record gets a playoff spot?

4. Only way I could see the NHL do this is if they took ownership of the tournament.

5. I don’t like this at all. I think this has been tried in rookie all-star games. It doesn’t make for good watching. Now, a lot of people don’t like shootouts, either, but I don’t think this is much better and just prolongs a regular season decision needlessly.

6. Good luck selling MLSE on that.

7. This sounds like some reporter thing where he’s trying to limit his own hours or travel or something. Don’t see what else it accomplishes.

8. I don’t think that’s really needed. Hasn’t been a lot of trade deadline movement the last year or so anyway.

9. Can Helsinki (and seven other cities) generate enough revenue to hit a $45 million cap floor? Would the NHLPA object to this? I’m sure they love the game in Europe, but I’m not sure the finances would work out and, apart from players native to Europe, I have a feeling they’d get crushed in Free Agency.

10. Good idea.

@loojay there is currently an antitrust lawsuit against both MLB and the NHL for their blackout policies. This might very well solve your problem fairly soon.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/26/12 at 12:04 PM ET


Posted by larry on 12/26/12 at 03:25 PM ET


Well, considering the last time there was a lockout and the NHL said they’d be able to lower ticket prices as a result and when the season started ticket prices were down like .00001% and then back over where they were within a year, I don’t exactly think (m)any of those suggestions are in any way meaningful.

The realignment thing, sure.  The NHL already tried to do it and the NHLPA killed it out of hand.

The reduced players/shootout is still a stupid skills competition IMO.  Why not just make it 2 on 2, stop calling penalties, and call it the ‘Blades of Steel’ competition.  So dumb.

I hope he didn’t compose that article on a mobile device, because literally 5 of LeBrun’s suggestions require a BAC of >.12 to conceive.

I mean, seriously… NHL hockey in Europe?  That’s idiotic.  On the other hand, it would be fun to hear all the Rangers, Devils, Flyers and Pens players yowling about having to take an 8 hour flight to Sweden 4 times a year to play their brethren in the ‘Eastern’ Conference.

It would figure that Detroit would get into the East right when Bettman blows out the Eastern border of the conference, though… wouldn’t it?

Posted by HockeyinHD on 12/26/12 at 05:11 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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