01 August 2007
Eventually, In order to boost the international profile of the NHL, I think the NHL should set up, and participate in some sort of Club Championship series, similar to the way European soccer has it's Champions League and UEFA Cup. This is a long term goal, mainly because the logistics involved are pretty much a nightmare.
Why? well let's face it the world is getting smaller (figuratively), which means the NHL has an opportunity to broaden it's horizons immensely. Trans-Atlantic transportation takes a mere hours and with the advancement of the internet, the NHL will be able to broadcast games all over the world. There's tremendous fan appeal there, in the same way that kids in England will root for Real Madrid or a Swede can cheer for AC Milan, the potential to gain fans in those countries is ripe. The NHL has the best talent level in the world and it's time to showcase that in Europe once and for all.
So how does one go about implementing this, well as with anything there needs to be an infrastructure. How does one get infrastructure? Barnstorming. The NHL should have the losers of the conference finals do a barnstorming tour of Europe for their preseason the following season. I'm sure some owners will oppose this, because they won't be able to squeeze pennies out of fans for meaningless pre-season games (meaningless to the fans, not the players and coaches). The NHL should also invite the champions of leagues (Swedes, Finish, German, etc) to come here and play some NHL teams in the preseason.
After experimenting with this for a few years to see if it's successful, a champions cup could be played. The top 4 teams in the NHL spend their pre-season playing in a tournament with 4 of the top teams from Europe. This tourney would alternate from N.America and Europe every season.
Like with any international competition it raises the NHL's profile, and generates buzz for doing something creative. People will turn in to see how they do. It will be an experience for the players as well.
If you did an 8-team tourney, 2 4-team divisions, round robin top 4 teams play single elimination for the tourney. First division (Red Wings, Czech #1, Sweden #1, Austria #1) and Second Division (Sabres, Finland #1, Russia #1, Germany #1). Games played in Detroit or Buffalo. It would draw more revenue and hopefully expose the league to a bigger audience. Combine it with the Olympics, world championships, etc and you ave a chance to market these stars not just to NA, but to the entire world. That's good for business.