Charles Barkley Knows How To Market Hockey Better Than The NHL Does
PREACH, SIR CHARLES!
This entire episode was great so I am posting it here before I get into the blog
I don't think I have the instant guttural, reactionary, hatred for Gary Bettman the way most fans do. I think he has unique challenges as a commissioner. I do think that since he has been the ONLY commissioner in the NHL's history and the league has perpetually had the same struggles for his entire tenure that it might be time for some fresh eyes and new ideas on how to grow the game.
The game has never been faster or more skilled than it is right now. Kids come into the league every year and try things never before seen in the NHL. That is a great thing. The access to games via streaming is a good thing. The biggest problem the NHL has is marketing. The NHL needs to come up with new ways to make people care. To get people emotionally invested. It feels like they are lagging WAY behind the other major sports leagues and I don't want the same tired excuses of how the game doesn't translate to TV or that the players are too buttoned up. HD has eradicated the TV argument and Spittin Chiclets has proven without a shadow of a doubt that if you make interviews fun and compelling the players open up and show their hilarious and relatable personalities. They become guys you want to watch and root for after seeing them on Chiclets. The league has never been able to do that on their own.
I am glad the NHL Network exists, but absolutely SUCKS compared to the NFL Network and the biggest area where they falter is original programming. "A Football Life" and "America's Game" are incredibly well-produced storytelling shows. Welcome To The NFL. Hard Knocks. The NFL absolutely kills it when it comes to storytelling. The NHL had one great show "HBO 24/7: Road To The Winter Classic" and they killed it what feels like a decade ago now. The studio shows on NHL Network don't come anywhere near the quality of the NFL shows. That segment of Whit and Biz talking about the future of the Leafs and what to do with their core four guys would've been the best 20 mins or so ever to grace the airwaves of NHL Network. There is seemingly no debate shows. No in-depth passionate discuss. Its quick hitters and highlights and then the NHL Network runs that show all day. They have to do better with how they talk about their own product. If your own network can't get excited about the league in a way that comes through on TV (and this goes for the ESPN broadcasts as well) then how can they expect any fans to get excited?
And Charles is absolutely right about how the NHL markets their stars. How many Americans would know the sound of Connor McDavid's voice? What about Auston Matthews? Now how about Lebron James? How about Joel Embiid's? I bet fucking Deuce Tatum is more recognizable at this point than Jack Eichel or Barkov to a random person on the street. Who's fault is that?
I am not going to even talk about how ESPN/NHL fumbled Game 7 of Oilers-Knights and the Draft Lottery. That's been beaten to death, but very indicative of a larger problem.
And...not to sound like a meatball...but fighting in the NHL is awesome. It just is. I don't want to bring back the broad street bullies or players like John Scott, but combat sports are insanely popular. People like violence. It could and should be a differentiator for the NHL, but the league runs away from it. Why? Players want it. 95% of fans LOVE it. If you watched that Matthews-Stamkos scrap amongst the chaos in the first round of the playoffs and didn't get goosebumps that means you're dead inside. When people my age talk about their favorite memories as a hockey fan it usually involves the Wings-Avs blood feud from 1996-2002. That was raw, organic, pure hatred that has in many ways been legislated out of today's game. I want more fighting and if that is wrong then I don't want to be right.
We talked about how the NHL is marketed on the Redline segment of the Mid Show today. You'll be able to find it on youtube at 2pm CST. We had on Steve Wilkos and Dante The Don and WSD is having a kid