Let me start out by saying….I have a man-crush on Sidney Crosby. I am a self-admitted bandwagon Pittsburgh Penguins fan because of Sidney Crosby. And most of all, Sidney Crosby might have single handedly started the process to save the NHL. However even without him in the game, the NHL might have a great opportunity to do some terrific marketing of other great players in this year’s All-Star game.
I will first off admit, straight off the bat, ratings will be down. Sidney Crosby has become the face of the NHL. Even though he is behind Evegeni Malkin and only one point ahead of Alex Ovechkin, he is still the most synonymous name with the NHL today.
So why is this a great opportunity? While listening to Michael Kay on 1050 ESPN Radio in NYC today, his co-host Don LeGreca brought up a great point: this will allow the league to market other players. For instance, a players like Pittsburgh’s Malkin and Washington’s Ovechkin. These guys are great players but are separated by a language barrier since they are not fluent in the English language. However, these guys help make the sport more marketable worldwide. Audiences from Russia will tune in to watch their native countrymen play. However, the NHL’s Crosby-centric marketing scheme is all about who else?…Crosby. The NHL could provide exposure in a Crosby-less All Star game to let audiences know these players actually have either better or equal stats. One opportunity to expand American and International markets.
Another opportunity comes with Calgary’s Jarome Iginla. The NHL has been known to be a ‘white man’s’ sport. Iginla is an African-Canadian (he was born in Canada so he can not be African-American). Exposure of Iginla could easily help the NHL expand into the African-American demographic. Provide them with an icon for children to look up to. Not necessarily like a Tiger Woods, but along the lines of a black figure in hockey who breaks the stereotype of hockey being a white man’s sport. For a young African-American child looking to play hockey, the NHL can use Iginla as inspiration for them to break into the sport.
Finally, exposure of players in smaller markets. The San Jose Sharks are having a tremendous year. They have a 5 point lead over the rest of their conference. A player like Joe Thornton can easily be overlooked because the NHL is too concern with marketing the likes of Crosby, the original six, and the Detroit Red Wings. It will not be every year that the NHL will be blessed with the Red Wings and the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals. Remember we had Edmonton and Carolina a few years back. Exposing players in markets like San Jose, the Canadian cities, Colombus, etc. can help the NHL boost ratings when NBC and Versus are stuck with a Tampa Bay-Calgary Stanley Cup.
So there you have it. The NHL has a golden opportunity to break through its Crosby-centric marketing scheme. Sure, Crosby is their biggest strength. Yes, Crosby not playing in the All Star game will hurt the league and is one of the bigger weaknesses facing the league this season. However, a strong marketing push of players like Iginla, Thornton, Ovechkin, and Malkin can help the league establish icons for the sport throughout the country….as well as the world.