NHL Events

A Closer Look At: NHL Events

The NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone again.  If you look at the month leading into the Trade Deadline this year there were a total of 47 trades made with 89 NHL and AHL players moved (some of them moved twice in that month) along with 50 draft picks (roughly, because some of them were listed as the dubious “future considerations”).  That is a lot of movement, and considering the caliber of some of the players being moved, one could argue one of the more interesting and exciting Trade Deadlines in recent history.  The only thing is, much of that movement happened in the weeks leading up to the Deadline, and not actually at the Deadline.  Although you want to leave GMs to do their job as they see fit, I can’t help but think of the lost entertainment value here.

The Trade Deadline is a very unique NHL event to experience.  While all the other leagues do have Trade Deadlines, there really isn’t the same attempt at stirring up interest in the way that the NHL does.  Clearly the NHL and their Broadcast partners have decided that this is an important day in the NHL Calendar.  I recently read an article by Ken Campbell of The Hockey News. The gist of it is, why not freeze the GMs for a month, and then have them all together on the Trade Deadline Day, and let us viewers enjoy the havoc.  There is already a dedicated group of people that care about and follow the Trade Deadline in its current format (trust me….I know a few people who take it a little too far.) Why not ramp it up?  That seems to be the name of the game these days.  Making NHL events like the Trade Deadline must-see TV for sports fans would only help the NHL.

Being a long time NHL fan, I have had many discussions about the essential nature of the sport.  It has for a long time been viewed as the youngest sibling of the Big Four Professional sports in North America.  I have had many discussions about how people don’t feel it translates well to TV.  That they don’t always know what is happening on the ice like: Why was a penalty is called? Why was that an offside? Why are they allowed to fight? (Many of these conversations were being had with the casual fans or outsiders of course).  The NHL has done a great job since the 2004 Lockout of bringing the casual fan to the game.  Increased scoring (for a bit) better reffing (for a bit) and the shootout.  Which lead to the Winter Classic (I know the Heritage Classic pre-dates the 2004 Lockout, for you purists).  Which has been wildly successful.  There is a reason for that in my opinion, it is an event.

A good friend of mine has often opined that the success of the NFL rests on the fact that sport loving Americans in general are an event based culture.  I think you would be hard pressed to discover otherwise.  Although the NFL does have their own issues, by and large, the NFL season is a series of gigantic and entertaining events.  Just look at the 3 days leading into Free Agency last Tuesday, there were a number of organizational and league changing trades.  The NHL simply cannot keep up when it comes to generating those types of headlines.  The thing is, every single important date in the NFL calendar is like this; gigantic events that live up to the promise.

The NHL will never be the NFL.  In fact no other league will be the NFL.  It has just become a beast unto itself.  This was more or less admitted by Sports Illustrated this year when it declared this the age of the niche sport. Even America’s pastime has been overtaken by the NFL.  So instead of fighting the idea, maybe all of these leagues need to join in.  I personally think they should work together on this idea.  What events do we have in any given year?  How do we execute them in an exciting way to guarantee maximum coverage?  Making each of these moments in any given year Must-See TV (trade mark NBC, score for the NHL and being a broadcast partner) would only benefit the future of sports in general.  In each of the other leagues, the regular season is a grind.  Making it to the playoffs is just as much an act of attrition is it is an achievement.  Why not have a couple more events throughout the year to celebrate the fans and their vested interest in the sport, it is clearly what they want.


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Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images

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