The NHL is opening a retail store in midtown Manhattan, a la the NBA store.
Interestingly, where the NBA store is a chance to turn basketball fans into consumers, the NHL store seems to be an attempt to turn random consumers into hockey fans.
Also interesting, I’ve seen a ton of articles about Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, calling their rivalry the NHL’s version of Larry Bird/Magic Johnson. Which drives me crazy, because the NHL can’t support that kind of rivalry. Players are on the ice for what? Twenty five to thirty minutes at the very, very most? So what are people drawn in by the rivalry supposed to do while they’re waiting for the stars to get back on the ice? Pay their bills? Mute the TV? The NBA and NHL represent two different sports (and how sad is it that I have to explicitly say that?). If you reduce the NHL to a star system, you throw away the vast majority of the game. And you end up with devices like NBC’s star tracker, that tells you when a star is on the ice, and how long he’s been out there — a cue to stop working on your ship in a bottle and actually pay attention. You know. Until the star is off the ice.
Hockey is a tough sell in the states. I get that. But it becomes an even tougher, if not impossible, sell if you market it as if it’s a totally different sport from what it really is. Sure, they’ve taken out the fighting. And they’ve got the midtown store going up. What’s next? Will the players wear shorts? Will there be a three-point goal line? A red, white, and blue puck?
Actually, I wouldn’t mind the red, white, and blue puck. That seems festive.