5 More Ways the NHL can get fans back after the lockout
Following up on an article by Pierre Lebrun of ESPN, which suggests 10 ways for NHL to recover from lockout and 5 additional suggestions from Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski, which can be read here, I’ve come up with a crowd-sourced list of 5 additional options that might help bring some fans back to the game if/when the lockout ends.
1) The 3 Point system – If the NHL wants to make its longtime, die-hard fans happy, they will make this change. I’ve been a proponent of a 3-2-1 points system for years, as in three points for a 60-minute win, two points for an overtime/shootout victory and one point for an OT/SO loss. Even though statistics have shown the standings wouldn’t greatly change with the 3-point system, the idea has been a favorite of hockey purists for years and would be a great way to get some new configurations for standings, even in a 48-game season.
2) Don’t only make NHL Center Ice and GameCenter free, the NHL should make the NHL Network free to anyone who wants it for one year. If you want people to live and breathe hockey on a daily basis, news, updates, recaps, and classics are a good way to start.
3) Fix the equipment problem – Helmets don’t protect like they should, shoulder and elbow pads are rock-hard and massive, goaltenders may not be the Michelin Man like they once were, but they’re still oversized. Many health experts in the field say that this is the thing that makes the NHL most dangerous for players, not just the speed of the game or the style of play. People like watching their star players play, but the NHL has seen a massive increase in the injuries to star players in the past few years.
4) Take a page from the KHL – Make the Winter Classic an All-Star game weekend extravaganza.
From Adam Proteau of the Hockey News:
“There’s a lot to like about the NHL’s massively successful Winter Classic experiment. There’s not as much to like about the NHL’s All-Star Game weekend. But if they were melded together into a single event that takes the best from both concepts, there’d be much more to like.
But imagine an All-Star Game played on that outdoor ice, on or near New Year’s Day. In such a scenario, players could have far more fun, knowing there is nothing of consequence at stake. The risk of injury on bad ice would plummet. And fans worldwide would be able to see the best of the league’s talent together in an environment in which they’ll rarely, if ever, be able to see them again.
Another complaint was that, under my suggestion, fans in warm-weather NHL cities wouldn’t get to host an All-Star Game/Winter Classic any longer. The answer to that is simple: too bad, so sad. Warm weather cities get warm weather and cold-weather cities get the WC/ASG. That’s a more-than-fair tradeoff for warm weather cities.”
Combining an extremely popular event with high risks, the Winter Classic, with a less popular event with much lower risk of injury could be a huge benefit for the teams, players, and fans. The KHL has seen great success in hosting a similar yearly event in Red Square, pairing two captain selected all-star teams against each other in a friendly exhibition.
5) Open up the press box. There are many teams in the NHL that have embraced the new media, opening up press boxes to the members of the blogosphere, but there are still far too many teams that fear that opening up the press box to members of the non-print journalism crew will create a Pandora’s box of pandemonium and disorder. The problem that a lot of teams currently cite as a concern of opening up the press box to bloggers is that they have both unfamiliarity with the decorum of the press box in addition to being unable to remove their fandom from the equation. Both of these are valid concerns of NHL team management, but at a time when the NHL will be in desperate need of fans, what a simple and relatively inexpensive way to get both positive press and Internet word-of-mouth swirling. I’m not saying that every person with a blog should get a press pass, but teams could give blogs that meet certain requirements the opportunity to attend maybe 3 or 4 games a year with certain restrictions on access and availability. Maybe set up something like a Blogger pass, which would allow for one or two members of a team-registered blog to sign-up to attend a few games based on availability of blogger press passes for a particular game, while limiting access to players, but allowing attendance at post-game press conferences or other relevant team events.
In 2005, when the NHL finally returned, fans had many new incentives to return to watch the game that missed a season. Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and a revitalized on-ice product all helped grow hockey fandom to new levels. If the NHL is set to return this season or next season, it will be desperately lacking in shiny new toys to help bring back scorned fans, as well as draw in new fans.