Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 07/31/05 at 07:45 AM ET
Given a glorious opportunity to come out of the gate by showcasing Sidney Crosby in a stand-alone opener a night before the remainder of the league's Egalitarian 30 drop the puck, the NHL has failed its first re-launch marketing test, and has done so miserably. Instead of arranging for the Penguins-Devils opener in New Jersey to be played on Tuesday, Oct. 4 as the national opener of whatever cable television package the league negotiates, that instead will be just one of 15 games played the following night. But why would the league want to trumpet the debut of the most talked about neophyte since Eric Lindros, if not Mario Lemieux? Why would the league want to promote an opening showdown between Crosby, its most commercial-friendly marquee freshman ever, and Martin Brodeur, the best, and, coincidentally, most media-friendly, goaltender in the world? Why would the league want to advertise the potential of Mario Lemieux bearing in on Brodeur in perhaps the first shootout in NHL history? Why would the league want to actually re-open with pizzazz, why would it actually want to focus the spotlight on a transcendent 18-year-old and a goalie for the ages, when instead it can diffuse the attention across the continent to mouth-watering matchups such as Minnesota-Calgary, LA-Dallas, and the Islanders-Buffalo? With the Rangers opening in Philadelphia that night, even the New York market won't be paying attention to the prodigy's first NHL performance. But that's the NHL for you. This is the league that believes the burden is on the players to sell the sport by "getting out into the community." This is the league that believes no market is more significant than any other, and it was that core philosophy as much as any financial concerns that drove the Sixth Avenue salary-cap crowd.
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