In the first couple of years coming out of the lockout, having Sidney Crosby at the center of all NHL marketing made sense. He was the most talented player in the league, he was well spoken, and the sport needed a fresh face to bring in a new era of hockey in North America. However, as the seasons have gone by, Crosby’s popularity outside of The Steel City has slowly deteriorated.
Fans across the country have come to realize Crosby isn’t the NHL’s white knight. He’s one of the sports best no doubt, but everyone is now aware of his dirty play, the whining, and of course the unparalleled favoritism shown by league referees.
Hockey fans are ready for a new poster boy and the league should give it to them, otherwise they run the risk of being like golf when Tiger was injured, no one was watching…this is pre-sexcapades of course.
Now I’m not naïve enough to think Crosby’s lack of likability is going to force the league to reconsider its marketing strategy. However, with the relative uncertainty of his health and future, the timing couldn’t be better to look at other NHL elites.
Of course reading this post you knew there was a list coming, so here are several players the NHL should be putting their promotional dollars behind.
Stamkos is arguably the game’s purest goal scorer. He may not have the flash of Alexander Ovechkin, or the eccentricity, but he’s of equal value to the Tampa Bay Lightning. To date, he has received very little push.
Now Tampa may not win any awards as the league’s greatest hockey market, but the house is packed every night, the ratings are solid, and the team has a chance to go deep into the post-season.
Should Skinner follow up his rookie season with a sensational second, he should get a bump. He’s young, he’s uber-talented, he’s fresh faced, and the kid’s jersey probably outsells fried Oreos down south. If the league wants to continue to market the youth, it’s hard to not give Skinner a look.
He’s only 20 years old, but viewers and the media always love whiz kids whether it’s Rory McIlroy, Shaun White, etc. There’s obviously some risk involved putting all of that responsibility on such a young kid, but Skinner seems like he can handle the attention.
It’s pretty simple. The league doesn’t do enough to market the game to minorities and it’s a big reason why hockey’s TV ratings are “grassroots,” which is the industry term for sh*tty. Hockey will never come close to being within the same viewership level as the NBA until they can diversify their audience. Byfuglien can help solve this issue.
Byfuglien may not be the best defensemen in the league, but he scores a lot of goals, he’s enormous, and he’s articulate. Playing in Winnipeg, which will now be the NHL’s smallest market, is going to hurt his exposure. The league needs to do what it can to counter the lack of love from NBC.
I know, I know, a Rangers blogger is suggesting the NHL use a New York Ranger to be one of the faces of hockey, how ironic! Still, New York is the NHL’s biggest market and Lundqvist has been the Rangers greatest player, yet the man is never featured in any national advertising.
The Winter Classic and HBO’s 24/7 are the league’s best opportunities to build new stars. Why not use the star of those programs (don’t worry he will be) to be the centerpiece of all your marketing?
Lundqvist is the best, he’s well dressed, and he’s got a legion of supporters behind him. It’s time to show the rest of North America why he is The King of NYC.