While hockey is the national sport of Canada it remains a niche sport in the United States. American hockey fans are famously loyal to their teams but the NHL has had a difficult time breaking through to the same ‘mainstream’ status enjoyed by NFL football and NASCAR auto racing. Now the league is hoping to emulate some of the success of the NFL by copying one of its more successful promotional efforts and by expanding something that is uniquely their own: a reality show modeled after the NFL’s successful ‘Hard Knocks’ series and an increase in the number of the NHL’s wildly successful outdoor games.
The reality series, entitled ‘NHL Revealed: A Series Like No Other‘, will be pattered after HBO Sports’ “24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic and will follow players before, during and after the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series outdoor games in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago; the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic in Vancouver; and the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. The hope is that a more concerted effort to capture the dramatic aspects of pro hockey will do for the NHL what the NFL’s long successful ‘NFL Films’ division has done for pro football.
NHL COO John Collins explained what the league is hoping to achieve with the series:
“Not everybody has played this game. The more ability you have to help people understand just how good these guys are, how special they are, how fast the game is, and how tough the sport is, compared to a football or basketball, benefits hockey and benefits our players. They come off as incredible guys. The more you can help tell that story, the better it is for the business.”
At the same time, NBC is hoping to use the league—and the TV series—to further establish their upstart all sports network, NBC Sports Network. The network has gotten off to a quiet start in its first year and last season’s NHL lockout didn’t help things. Both the network and the league is hoping that the return of the outdoor games (another casualty of the lockout) and the resulting media coverage will benefit both entities. In addition to the NBC Sports Series the aforementioned HBO series will also return covering the leadup to the league’s New Years’ Day event between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at the University of Michigan’s “Big House” football stadium in Ann Arbor. The league is hoping that the game will top hockey’s all time attendance record of 104,173 set at a college hockey game between Michigan and rival Michigan State.
The good news for the NHL and their media partners is that they have a great product to ‘sell’. The live experience of hockey is arguably the best of any team sport. NHL handicapping is increasing in popularity in the United States. SportsBettingPal.com has betting sites for hockey and the sport is attracting greater interest in Las Vegas sports books. NHL team t shirts and jerseys are becoming a more common site among the general public and the upcoming 2014 Olympic Games is expected to attract even more eyeballs to the sport.