Some Ideas For The NHL To Appease Fans After The Recent Lockout
Now that the NHL lockout is over, the league, its individual teams, and all the players are doing their best to win back scorned fans. Some teams are offering free food, others are offering cheaper tickets, many are offering discounted merchandise. These initiatives will help heal the wounds inflicted on fans by the lockout.
While these efforts are welcome and will be embraced by many fans, I think the League can do more. Here are a few ideas:
Give The Fans A Voice.
1. I think this would be unprecedented for sports leagues, but I think the NHL could appoint a fan ambassador, someone who will represent the fans interest in much the same way the teams and players are represented. Obviously it would be a glorified media relations representative, but this person would be responsible for getting the pulse of the fans, and vocalizing our sentiments to the league and players when needed.
2. Let fans contribute to the Hockey Hall of Fame voting. At the risk of this becoming hijacked like the All-Star voting, I’d say this would be a bit more regulated, with fan voting becoming a percentage of the votes (in addition to the league and media who currently vote). In the digital era, fan participation for voting should be embraced.
3. Fan participation in the NHL Awards. Like the HHOF idea above, fans can partake in voting for all or select trophies. A few “Fans Choice” awards could be created, like a Fan Favorite Player award (Paul Bissonnette could actually win something).
More Fun Events.
1. I wrote this on my other blog a long time ago, but I think the NHL could do a few more events that might appeal to fans along the lines of its successful Winter Classic. Teams could dress up for Halloween, for example the New York Rangers could dress up as the Ghostbusters (might have a design lying around this blog). St. Patrick’s Day is another night that could be of interest, with the Maple Leafs taking to the ice as the St. Pats, maybe the Minnesota Wild could adorn North Stars jerseys for the evening. The NBA does an excellent job of getting teams to dress-up for Christmas, the NHL could learn from this.
2. Move the NHL All-Star Game to occur after the end of the season, incorporate the NHL Awards as well. This would ensure an All-Star Game every season, regardless of Olympics (or annual lockouts). Including the NHL Awards would be a fun way to hand out hardware, with the players raising trophies on the ice clad in their team jersey, as it should be.
3. Return of the mid-season ‘friendly’ matches. I think it was in the late 80′s or early 90′s when the Soviet Union’s two best hockey teams, Red Army and Moscow Dynamo, played exhibition games against NHL teams in the middle of the season (Dec/Jan). I had the pleasure of watching my Flames play Dynamo, and it was quite a grudge match! Would love to see NHL teams play KHL teams for a few exhibition games (be it in North America or Russia), probably more so than NHL regular season games played in Europe (which usually kicks off every NHL season these days).
4. World Championship Tournaments return in place of the All-Star Game. This happened once, with the Rendez-vous ’87 event pre-empting the 1987 NHL All-Star Game. It could be a two-team format (North America vs. The World), or a three-team format (Canada, U.S.A., Europe). Fans love international play, but it has to be for keeps; a trophy would be up for grabs. It would be the NHL equivalent of the Presidents Cup.
1. The HBO documentary series 24/7, which follows the two teams playing in the Winter Classic in the days leading up to the game, is a fantastic look into the everyday lives of players and coaches (this coming from someone who loathes reality TV). I would like to see a comparable series or film that looks into some of the more volatile times of the NHL year: training camp, the trade deadline, and draft day — maybe player suspensions and arbitration hearings as well. This candid look would be an eye-opener for many. I’d like to see General Managers negotiate a trade, or a coach telling a player he didn’t make the cut. While this might reveal a less-glamorous side of the NHL and its players, it could generate some more empathy from fans. (Feb 4/2013) UPDATE: Well looky here.
2. Play reviews could be transparent. The discussion between the referees and the ‘war room’ in Toronto when goals are under review could be incorporated into TV broadcasts. This way fans are privy to the review process in real-time, and can see decisions being formulated. Also it would be helpful if review officials could offer explanations when needed, instead of leaving fans scratching their heads sometimes.