Game 7 is under way

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I grew up loving baseball, and the Mets in particular, but having lived through the drama of Game 6 against the Sox, it’ll be tough for me to ever match the same level of excitement (hopefully my brother and best friend don’t read this blog, because they’d both disown me for saying that).

In a related story, the Islanders are hosting Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and the Penguins some 30 miles down the road, and it looks like there’s about 27 people in attendance.

By the way, “Malkin’s tenure with the Penguins is already in jeopardy”:http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/news;_ylt=Am50N0XCN2hl7IIsiVJUs2g5nYcB?slug=ap-penguinslawsuit&prov=ap&type=lgns, at least if his former employer in Russia has anything to say about it.

The Rangers are back on the ice tomorrow…

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12 Comments

  1. Gary Bettman said he’s not worrying about attendance yet, but I think he should be. Millions of empty seats in Washington, Chicago, on the Island, etc. are an absolute embarrassment. And, PS, the Rangers are reporting sellouts that are clearly not. Because that heinous purple is plenty visible even if you don’t have an HDTV.

  2. Sam, I’m disappointed in you! A baseball post? Don’t we get enough about “baseball, baseball, and more BASEBALL” on the news every night?

    I’ll never understand how Baseball is 100x more popular then hockey in the US when hockey is just so damn exciting and baseball in so boring! Ahhh…My rant is over ;)

  3. For a family of 4 to go to a hockey game, it costs a minimum of over $120, including ticketmaster surcharges it’s over $140, with concessions, souvenirs, parking, etc, it costs roughly $200-250 to take a family to a regular season hockey game and sit in the nose bleeds. Plus the bottom section are empty corporate seats… Is it worth it?

    For a game filled with blue collar athletes the stadiums are supposed to be filled with yuppies???? Sorry, that’s retarded. No offense meant to anyone.

    No, not when you stay home in front of an HDTV for $800, nhl center ice for $150 and get a whole season in a permanent home theater for the price it would cost to see 4 games in person. What would you do? Also consider that the middle class is not what it once was… the incidental charges in life have gone way up. Phone, DSL, Cable, Gasoline, Cellphone, student loans, car lease, healthcare… there are so many more things to pay for nowadays.

    Also consider that a baseball game is much cheaper. In a major city like LA you can take a family of four to a ball game for $40! Total!!!! THe league needs to market to families. They don’t. I don’t exactly know who they are targeting. There is very little edge and character in the game. It’s a very sterile sport unless you love the sport and know what makes it beautiful. Who the hell knows that Kaspar is a funny guy? etc, etc. The league has no personality to the world. There is no face of hockey. Even baseball has a Tommy Lasorda, etc. I would argue that speed, elite skill, and focusing on a few athletes that aren’t magically interesting is hard.

    When Gretzky came into the league, he looked like no one else. His helmet was different (he actually wore one), He tucked his jersey, his body type, his skating stride, he stood out. Crosby is a great great player, but just by appearance he blends into the rest of the nhl. He does not stick out. The league has very little to promote that shows actual characters. You know, like the hanson brothers or magic johnson.

    At the end of the day, there is currently a few things that serve as big draws in most NHL cities… a big star on the home team, a great winning home team, or an incoming star player. I won’t go around the league to judge the relative attractiveness of each franchise, but I’d say there are very few places generating any excitement (Buffalo, Carolina, Edmonton, Calgary, Pittsburgh and thats it.)

    In terms of visibility and marketability, the league suffers because most of its star athletes are foreign. Big problem. Ovechkin and Malkin are amazing players, but you cannot market a league on these guys in america. The league needs characters. Where are the Parcells and TOs, the Lasordas, the Rodmans The Big Papis and the Shaq O’Neals? Are the Helmets and visors making this almost impossible?

    I have no idea what I’m saying anymore…

  4. Neil, very good post….

    Even as a fanatic fan of the sport I have to admit you are more than right about it….!!!

    It is sad, isn´t it ?????

  5. Neil —

    You make a lot of good points. Just to be contrary, I’ll argue a couple.

    One, you’re right that the price of NHL games is expensive for families, but as I’ve said earlier, hockey is the one sport that is exponentially better in person than on TV. Maybe HD is closer, but I’ve always felt allowing people to see the game in person is what will sell it.

    Two, the argument about foreign stars is valid. I’ve dealt with this a lot in covering golf, especially in talking about the fringe LPGA. Maybe there isn’t a substitute for being able to market a home-grown star, but I still think more important is charisma, personality, and of course, skill on the ice. Granted, if a player can’t speak English very well, some of that’s not going to come across, but if he can, it doesn’t matter what country you’re from, there’s an opportunity there.

  6. Once in a while I am returning back to the site when I read about such good posts like that from Neil today.

    I think we can´t really argue, the comissoner and the whole NHL doesn´t care about the fans.

    They installed the cap, so they spread out all the top guys around the country without any sense, no really hockey fan is interested in. So why do you have hockey in Columbus, Nashville, Atlanta, Florida, Phoenix etc, where most of the people are not really interested in hockey. Their national TV contract is a joke, and they are not interested in marketing their product overseas. They don´t have any idea to use the internet properly. Bettman is more interested to have his 30 buddies and presidents of the teams lucky as to have a better hockey product on the ice. http://www.nhl.com the home site of the nhl isn´t providing the services as before as I can remember years ago about the length of recaps etc, I talked about in a previous post….

    If you see attendances in Washington, Atlanta, Nashville, Phoenix or Anaheim you quickly realize that the fan is not stupid….

    Even when I was on that tour in 2003 through the East, hockey was on its way down, like Neil mentioned, carrers of Yzerman, Lemieux and Messier were at the end and a sport need those names…..And those guys make it more than worth the 6, 7 or 8000 bucks I spent on the tour, but today, I don´t really know to do it again.

    But today, you have Crosby in Pittsburg, a Ovechkin in Washington, a Zherdev in Columbus, so everything is spread out…par exemple today in the morning I talked to a working colleague about the results of the NHL from last night as we usually do and I even forgot some matchups, because nobody still have the overview any more about thirty teams even for me who usually study any recap, box score players stats from any games of the NHL. ( I talked about Wayne Gretzky and his coyotes to get romped but I even forgot about the opponent Los Angeles even after studying even early in the morning all the results..:):)

    Okay, Sam, you once said you don´t want to hear about my opinion about the state of hockey, but now I have given it too you publicly ….:):)

    But Sam you are good guy looking to promote hockey and you deserve to have more positive posts, but I think that is the real state of mind of hockey in the NHL…

  7. …and the sad thing is that ice hockey in the NHL was so exciting as I would put a hockey night in Canada with a game between the Canadiens and the Leafs to the same level of top events for me as a game with FC Barcelona at the NOU Camp against Real Madrid or a day at the world famous centre court of Wimbledon or even now at Melbourne Park in Australia…!!!!!

  8. And I even forgot the best example to mention….

    Two or three seasons ago NHL.com provided an interactive live show with hosts Don LaGreca, Jim Cerney, and Joe Tolleson as hosts when fans all around the world were invited via Internet to talk hockey for two hours having the chance to call in live into the studios to talk to the hosts and asking questions to officials, players and alumni etc. And I really admit was online almost any day and it was such a great time….

    and today…check the nhl.com try to find it….!!!!!!

  9. Actually MSG is almost always sold out. Last year I believe they sold out like 99% of their games. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone goes to the games. Most nose bleeds are bought by scalpers and people who sell them on ebay. I was at the Nashville game sitting in season ticket seats and the area around me was empty. That’s because a lot of season ticket holders cant make every game and try to sell them last minute. MSG also holds sections to sell at a later time like they did last year during the playoffs. I remember i went on ticketmaster the day of and there were tickets available for rangers game 4 against the devils that they had just released. So MSG is indeed correct for reporting sell outs.

  10. Sam

    I agree with you that hockey is better on HD. Isn’t that even more incentive for people to stay away from the venue.

    Also, I agree with you regarding the idea of skill level and speed. However, when I go to games and even when i watch them on TV, something isn’t the same as it was when i was younger. I don’t know if it’s the helmets or the equipment, or what but the game seems to have less personality.

    The game i went to this year at the garden… the only thing i recognized from the games of my youth where the guys sitting up in the old blues who still seem to remember the old days. Perhaps a problem for me is that the NHL works so hard on looking modern and cutting edge that they’ve lost what makes them truly special and not just some upstart sport. They’re history. I would recommend watching the old games to get a point of reference. Those games are chock full of raw personality that is missing from today’s game. Keep in mind who fans fall in love with… Sure, the Jagrs and the Hanks, but also the hollwegs, the domis, the barnabys and the kasparaitis’. It’s the stories, the intrigue, the tension growing on the ice between two teams with a historical rivalry (red sox v yankees) This is not a mistake. Sure, the skill level wasn’t as strong 20 years ago, but that almost doesn’t matter…

    I work in TV and i also happen to produce a budding grassroots comedy show in several cities so i have some understanding of the concepts of branding and marketing and in my humble opinion it feels like the NHL has, for several years now, promoted itself into oblivion. Instead of mimicing other sports, they need to make a point of why they’re different. But instead, they clean up the game, they scrub of it of its traditions, they eliminate fighting, and now we’re left with a game that’s almost as hard to promote as major indoor lacrosse. (slight overstatement, but you get the point here)

    Ultimately, when Bettman took over he had little understanding of the sport and its history and therefore little confidence in the product he was handed. That lack of confidence has manifested itself into a sport that has no edges, has pushed the real fans to the last 10 rows and beyond and has literally managed to take every team and homogonize them. And worse, you cannot brand a sport on speed and skill. It’s incredibly vague. It’s like asking someone to buy one fast car instead of five other fast cars. “Watch the NHL – our athletes are athletic.” Huh?

    Keep in mind that while the NHL continues to update itself, baseball has found a resurgence in attendance not just because of the homerun ball, but because the new stadiums are harkening back to the pasttime. I went to AT&T Park in SF and the place is absolutely breathtaking. It’s like being immersed in history. If you look at all the new hockey/b-ball arenas now, they’re all bland, cookie cutter… like the ballparks of the 60’s and 70’s.

    Now, keep in mind that i understand the counter argument here, that whats the point of harkening back to a tradiiton that new fans know nothing about, so would there really be a connection? Well, look at the stanley cup, the most marketable trophy in sports, when you see that thing you can see the history oozing off of it, people want to know about it. About the traditions of it, players not wanting to touch until they win, etc. That’s hockey! It’s the most blue collar work ethic sport in the america and they can’t promote it, what the heck is going on?!!!!

    In addition, i found this sport on my own as a child. And the more i learned about my beloved rangers the more i wanted to know their history. The product almost invited that at the time because the history was all around you, in the conference and division titles, everywhere.

    Also, Bettman and Dolan should be forced to watch Hockey Night in Canada everytime it’s on. (Because their knowledgable announcers don’t sound like homers or politicians trying to hide something).

  11. Neil, what do you think how long do I have to wait for live coverage from NHL games via Internet ????

    This season or next one or never ????

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