There are 2 drafts happening this week. The NBA draft will be held on Thursday. Both rounds will be shown on ESPN which is available in almost every home that has cable, or satellite TV. The NHL draft will be seen Friday by all 47 lucky viewers that have access to the Vs. Network.
The first choice in the NBA draft will be Oklahoma All American PF Blake Griffin. NBA fans have seen him many times on television including the Sooners run in the NCAA Tournament on CBS. Other top choices include Jordan Hill (PF, Arizona), James Harden (SG Arizona St.) DeMar DeRozan (SG USC) and Hasheem Thabeet (C UConn). There are a couple of foreign players the most significant of which is Ricky Rubio (PG DKV Joventut) the 18 years old star of the Spanish Olympic Silver medal team seen all over the world including in the US.
The first pick in the NHL Draft will be Victor Hedman (defenseman Sweden), or centers John Tavares or Matt Duchene of the OHL. No one is sure which one will be picked first by the New York Islanders. The problem that the NHL has is that very few fans have seen them play on television and even fewer will see which one is picked on the Vs. Network.
The NHL starts off light years behind the NBA and NFL in coverage of the draft which is a critical path to developing the stars that fans follow throughout their careers. Being that far behind, they need to do a better job of marketing their stars and their sport. But they don’t.
As a marketing consultant for more than 40 years, I have contacted some of the NHL teams with ideas that would have built attendance and increased the chances of getting more coverage in the papers and on TV and the radio. In all cases I was told that the teams were fine. They didn’t need marketing help.
Despite all the confident talk, the finances of NHL teams have been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy for years. The Phoenix franchise is up for sale right now and may well move back to Canada unless a local buyer steps up soon. This is particularly worrisome because the area is a retirement center where former northern state residents nearly outnumber locals. The area is very wealthy and has a hunger for sports. Even so, the team is nearly bankrupt.
Hockey is a religion for its dedicated fans. It is a great game best seen in person. The playoffs this year were outstanding. But the closed attitude of the NHL leadership is obvious. They need to wake up to the new media and ways to market their sport.
The labor problem that wiped out the 2004-2005 season was the end of the major coverage in the US. The lockout failed to accomplish anything except setting the league back 40 years. It cost the league any chance at a major TV contract. No major network trusted the league.
Most of all, the NHL needs to get a national contract on a major network. Less money now from an ESPN, TBS, Fox or other major network will generate great interest and much greater incomes in future years even if that means bringing the flaming puck back.
The league is struggling as all businesses in the US and around the world are from the economic downturn. If they don’t find a way to get a deal with a real network, we will be back to 8 or 10 teams very soon. That would be a crime.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .