The NHL needs some Pride

A week ago the NHL issued a press release stating the start dates of the upcoming Stanley Cup finals.

If both Conference Final series have been decided by Tuesday, May 26, the Western Conference winner would host Game 1 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final on Thursday, May 28. Otherwise, Game 1 will be played on Friday, June 5.

There was a fair bit of backlash to that press release with people saying how stupid it would be if the conference finals finished last night with Detroit winning in 5 games and then the league taking 8 days off before starting the final. Over the past couple of days with that outcome seeming more likely rumours came about that maybe the playoffs would start this Saturday. Yesterday those rumours came true as the NHL released the schedule for the Stanley Cup finals.

Saturday, May 30 at Detroit, 8:00 pm NBC, CBC, RDS
Sunday, May 31 at Detroit, TBD-Night NBC, CBC, RDS
Tuesday, June 2 at Pittsburgh, 8:00 pm VERSUS, CBC, RDS
Thursday, June 4 at Pittsburgh, 8:00 pm VERSUS, CBC, RDS
* Saturday, June 6 at Detroit, 8:00 pm NBC, CBC, RDS
* Tuesday, June 9 at Pittsburgh, 8:00 pm NBC, CBC, RDS
* Friday, June 12 at Detroit, 8:00 pm NBC, CBC, RDS

So the new schedule has Detroit and Pittsburgh playing 4 games in 6 nights and then taking another 8 nights to play the final 3 games, if necessary? That’s absurd. The heavily inured Detroit Red Wings must be furious right now with such a front heavy schedule. But, I guess, whatever NBC wants, never mind the fact that they aren’t paying a penny for broadcasting rights (just profit sharing if there is any profit).

In other news, in 12 seasons in Phoenix, it is reported that the Coyotes have never turned a profit. After 12 seasons in Phoenix, the Phoenix Coyotes Booster Club has a grand total of 57 members. A couple of weeks ago they had a save the Coyotes in which just 500 fans showed up. In Nashville a couple of years ago they had 7500 people show up at the rally and reportedly sold close to 800 seasons tickets. The save the Jets rally in Winnipeg before the Jets moved to Phoenix had over 35,000 people show up.

In other news, for some odd reason the NHL is holding their awards ceremony in Las Vegas this year. I can only assume to draw some attention to the NHL in a potential future expansion city but it seems that the event might not come close to selling out.

Is it just me or does anyone else think that it is time that the NHL take some pride in itself and its product and not make itself look like a spoiled child desperate for attention. I understand the desire to grow the brand and I am for that, but at some point you have to say enough is enough. I can accept a little juggling around of the schedule to accommodate TV, but not when it affects the on ice product and not when it makes the league look desperate for attention. Four games in six nights followed by 3 in eight is just plain ridiculous and it reflects poorly on the NHL. I wish the NHL had enough pride in itself and its product that they wouldn’t make such concessions. Would MLB ever announce a preliminary schedule for the World Series that could possible mean a week or more layoff between games? Not a chance.

I am all for working hard to preserve franchises in their current cities, but not if those cities prove that after 12 seasons the majority of people don’t care one iota about the team. Sometimes teams fail and teams have to move on. I just wish the NHL had enough pride in their product that they can feel OK with saying, if you don’t want our product, so be it, we’ll go somewhere that does. MLB, NFL and the NBA don’t seem to have a problem with that, why does the NHL?

In the grand scheme of things, Phoenix is near irrelevant and Las Vegas hardly matters at all. Sure, it would be nice to have solid fan interest in the NHL in those locations, but it isn’t there, and may never be there. And you know what, that is just fine. There are enough people in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, and other well supported hockey markets that the NHL can be a highly successful and popular professional sports league. It is time that the NHL stands up and takes pride in what they are and act like a professional sports league which is confident and competent rather than league desperate for attention and acceptance and willing to do almost anything for that attention and acceptance. Desperation won’t gain you any respect from anyone.

Posted in NHL

This article has 6 Comments

  1. Despite being mismanaged and woefully marketed, the Coyotes attendance marks exceed those of many other franchises. Even despite never winning a playoff series and being absent for 7 years. Ownership has been flaky, yet until recently, the seats have been packed.

    Early on, when the team had on ice success, they were crippled with a venue not suited for hockey, and worse, unable to profit from advertising and concessions, which instead went to other Phoenix arena interests.

    The lockout, coupled with a dreadful team performance, put the kibosh on any momentum gained from a brand, sparkling new wonderful facility. Worse, the location of the arena is far away from a substantial segment of the team’s fan base — yet the Coyotes did a poor job in marketing their product to the west valley.

    13 years of mismanagement — Coyotes, as they’ve been shuffled from one disreputable owner to another, failed to capitalize on a very lucrative sports market. While hockey will never be as popular here as north of the border, Phoenix metro area has a population of 3 million+, most of which are transplants from hockey friendly locales and still have interest in the sport. Within a few minutes drive of my house are ice rinks and inline hockey rinks that are bustle with activity.

    Some more thoughts I’ve logged on the matter can be found here:

  2. All good points Dave! That whole 8 days off was beyond ridiculous…why would NBC even want to do that? Yeah, sure, let’s shut down the sport for a week so that even the biggest fans lose interest by the time we put the games on.

    The schedule definitely stacks in favor of Pittsburgh who (1) has an extra day of rest, (2) not as many injury problems, and (3) had an easier 3rd round than Detroit. (Yes Detroit only took 5 games, but there were a couple of close ones in there…Pittsburgh basically routed Carolina all 4 games.)

    I think what frustrates the NHL is Pheonix is a market that *Should* work…much more than Nashville, Atlanta, or Anahiem. Pheonix is loaded with transplanted Norterners who love hockey. The problem is mis-management. And now, they put the arena in Glendale…which is the far west side of Pheonix, alienating 1/2 the population of the city. (My parents live in Mesa, and it takes an hour’s drive to go to a game.) I honestly have a hard time believing anyone would want to buy that team and keep it in Glendale.

    “Naum” claims attendance has been good in the past. The Arena holds 17,799 but the first year in there (03-04) they had 15,467, and has only gone down from there, continuing to drop down to the mid 14,000s this season, only about 80 % of capacity. They also have ticket deals galore to try and get butts in the seats. It’s definitely not working out there…and again, does anyone have the patience to take the time to make it work? Unless you turn the team into a winner overnight, which seems unlikely, you probably have another 4-5 years of double-digit losses, even with a new lease.

  3. Those attendance marks in 2003-2005 were greater than New Jersey, Boston, Buffalo, St. Louis, Washington, Chicago and a half-dozen other NHL cities.

  4. Ah, but just because they were greater than other locations doesn’t make them good. Buffalo, pre-lockout, had a bad team in the throws of bankruptcy, the sport was bad, and the ticket prices were inflated.

    You are right in thinking that with a better team, the Coyotes would be more successful…but you can’t lose $30 million a year. The Sabres missed the last two years, and lost about $2 million each year.

  5. BTW, I don’t think the Buffalo Sabres themselves were in bankruptcy. The league took control of the team because the owners, John Rigas and his sons, went bankrupt and were being charge with securities fraud. That mess had nothing to do with fan support.

  6. OK, nitpicking, while it wasn’t the team itself that was bankrupt, the company that owned the team (Adelphia) was in bankrupcy…however, ticket sales were well down in the early 2000’s and the NHL did take over the team from the Rigas family. They then found a buyer that would keep it here. It is not that the team can’t make money in Buffalo, but honestly, it DOES need to get into the playoffs to turn a profit. This is mostly because of the lower ticket prices here. However, this is a team that the NHL should want in the league because:
    (1) Buffalo generates one of the best TV ratings in the US, even when it isn’t the Buffalo Sabres playing in the game.
    (2) Huge season ticket base (approaching 15,000).
    (3) Buffalo “travels” very well…there are lots of Buffalo fans at road games just about everywhere, and thus it boost revenues in those weaker markets. (I remember 2 years ago watching a Caps game on TV, and the crowd was at least 40 % Sabres fans.)

    I think it is in the league’s best interest to keep teams where they are as much as they can…it was Bettman’s intervention that helped keep the Sabres in Buffalo. However, a team that struggles for as long as Pheonix has and gets poor support (A “rally” to keep the team that gets 200 people?) they should look long and hard at whether it belongs there.

    Also, they should consider relocation WAAYYY before they consider expansion.

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