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Thursday, June 23, 2016

An Open Letter to the NHL

This from ESPN's Craig Constance last night:
"In the fall of 2017, when we celebrate the 100th birthday of the NHL, we will do so as a League of 31 teams," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "We are pleased to welcome Bill Foley and the city of Las Vegas to the League and are truly excited that an NHL franchise will be the first major professional sports team in this vibrant, growing, global destination city."
"Foley paid the $500 million expansion fee to bring NHL hockey to Las Vegas, and the announcement is the culmination of two years of hard work that included a successful season-ticket drive to prove local interest."
With that report, I begin my open letter to current NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and new Las Vegas hockey club owner Bill Foley...

Dear Gary and Bill:

You don't know me, but maybe you should.

I realize why you jumped into the Las Vegas market and I'm proud.

I remember fifteen years ago when your old partner, Fox Television was struggling with their primetime lineup. Their top rated show was The Simpsons and it was ranked 39th for the four major networks. Along came the pitch for American Idol. All of the networks were pitched -- ABC, NBC, CBS. They all said "no." Fox said "we need a hit" "we need something different. Fox said "yes." And did they ever get a hit (* - see ratings at the bottom). I know you are trying to do what the other three big sports have shunned over the years: bring a major sport to Sin City.

I am not so sure, however, if Las Vegas is the jackpot you are seeking. But here's what's happening to your sport right now...

...the Stanley Cup Final, with arguably the best player in your league in Sidney Crosby? Nobody watched.

You're losing ground, big-time, to soccer, which is now on five networks. Interest has never been higher with networks bidding left and right for the rights to games. Soccer video sales through the roof. Soccer buzz off the charts. Soccer media coverage at an all-time high. In all aspects, it's blown past hockey. The truth is, as painful as someone who has grown up around the rink, nobody wants hockey.

Even the UFC is getting bigger (or already is) than hockey. They create stars with every event (Connor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Meisha Tate, Nate Diaz). People pay $50 to $90 per event on pay-per-view to watch their monthly fight cards. As many people that paying to watch the UFC are watching the NHL payoff games for free. ESPN and FOX are already preparing bids to televise the UFC when the contracts come up in 2018. UFC has also blown past hockey in terms of relevance.

What's the solution? Las Vegas, of course.

Vegas is where you go to spice things up. It's where you go to spice up your marriage, your relationships, your bachelor parties, your conventions...and your hockey.

You needed to make some noise and it makes you willing to roll the dice. You needed to get their first. You have a state-of-the-art facility in the T-Mobile Arena. Major League Soccer has explored putting a team there. The NFL has been talking about the Raiders to Vegas for months. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has publicly advocated regulating professional sports betting. Even Major League Baseball, who remains scarred by gambling scandals has talked about Vegas in the last week. You simply said, hmmmmmm, Quebec City or Las Vegas? No brainer, let's beat them all to the punch. Las Vegas it is.

I know you are pleased with a few things. Gary, that $500 million expansion fee will please your 30 other owners. And Billy, you have to be thrilled about the 14,000 fans that have placed deposits on season tickets and the prospects of working with MGM Resorts (who built T-Mobile Arena) on providing comp tickets to fill the place up each night. But these are short-term solutions.

Guys, please give The Media Guy a call. I sketched out five-year plan for the growth of hockey in the desert. I learned from the great Jack Kent Cooke about what NOT to do for hockey in the Sunbelt states and since garnered a couple of CLIOs and Emmys, along with nine or so Telly Awards.

Not to brag, but I can help.

You need more than just a hockey guy to navigate through the expansion draft. You need another perspective. This is where I come in. Let me share this with you.

The future Las Vegas Ice Crew?
As a freebie, I am throwing some ideas, courtesy of the Idea Man in Training, my son Josh. While he aspires to be the first Academy Award winner that becomes an FBI agent, he has a unique insight into the souls of youthful America.

Here is some of his vision to connect with the fans:
  • The goal horn. They could be super original and not have a horn, and instead have a man scream "Jackpot" and have the sound of coins falling out of the slot machine.
  • The logo could be very simple -- an "LV" crossing a pile of chips and cards. (I don't feel like it should be too complex as the best logos in the NHL are simple but powerful...the Kings, Blackhawks, Penguins.) I also don't feel they should hammer home the fact they're a hockey team like the Sharks do by shoehorning a stick into the logo.
  • The Ice crew should dress like the showdancers Las Vegas has.
  • National Anthem. Since Vegas has a lot of famous singers, they could work out a deal with them and have a rotating cycle of the performers there singing the national anthem.
  • The mascot should be an animal or a being not in the NHL already. It should stand out in a sense, but also embody the wild hectic nature of Las Vegas. Maybe a sphinx or a Flamingo because they're showy colorful and bright similar to Las Vegas.
  • The puck shouldn't be like any normal puck. It should literally just look like poker chip.
Maybe you like these ideas, maybe you don't. I will reveal the points addressed in my five-year plan when we meet; most you probably already realize, but do not know how to overcome them. After all, being an investment tycoon is different than reaching the hockey fan and the fan-at-large simultaneously. Hockey is not diverse in an ever-increasing diverse world. The product is not good on television, when sports these days is all about TV. Nobody bets the sport in an increasingly betting-centric country. And, it's very expensive and few play it. Yes, there's work to do!

Let's roll up our sleeves one afternoon and dig into the plan.

You won't regret it.

And, please, even if you won't call, don't let the fans name your team in some silly contest. You'll wind up with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim or something like that. No one wants that.

I look forward to your call.

Warm regards,

Michael Lloyd, The Media Guy


* - 

Mr. Bettman...Call me!