Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Why in the World Are You Opening in Europe?

That was the first question posed to the commish when he appeared on Boomer and Carton, a radio show on WFAN in New York City. You gotta give 'em credit, they have brass balls for asking that question right off the bat. Either that or they didn't care if Bettman hung up on them.

Anyway, after opening the interview by saying the NHL was opening somewhere in Kazahstan, Carton leads off with the aforementioned question.

"Why in the world are you opening up the season in Stockholm and Prague?"

Bettman's answer wasn't riveting as you might expect. He basically went on to say that the NHL is 'the most international of all the North American sports leagues'. Yes. That is exactly the reasoning we were all hoping for. Anyway, the rest of the interview can be heard here, and yes, I am quite a few days late on this.

But the real reason I mention this is because I wanted to address an egocentric argument being thrown around the blogosphere and MSM. For some reason, a lot of people seem pissed off about the NHL opening overseas. Now let's be fair, I don't think anyone is really losing sleep over this, but people are questioning it more than complimenting the move. And honestly, it's not really that bad of an idea if you're the NHL. Let's see here...

  1. Thwarting of the KHL... Remember that pesky league in Russia that tried to poach a bunch of NHLers? Yeah, they might be a legitimate threat. It's pretty easy for the KHL to lay claim to Europe, so why not try and remind people that the NHL is still the biggest and the best? If anything, it should slow down the KHL after all the steam it picked up this summer.
  2. The world is now a global marketplace. We all know it. Businesses have been globalizing for years. Hell, people were doing it long before Chris Columbus discovered this continent. Slowly but surely the sports world is realizing that they can now peddle their wares over seas. Just look at the effect Yao Ming and Ichiro have had on their respective sports leagues. Some sort of NHL subdivision in Europe isn't a pipe dream, sooner or later it will probably be reality -- unless someone beats the NHL to it.
  3. Is it really that offensive to the North American viewer? Honestly, are Ranger fans going to be pissed that they are only going to see 41 home games at the Garden? Probably not. Pittsburgh, New York, Tampa Bay and Ottawa are all still going to have home openers. They are all still going to play a crap ton of games on North American soil. Let's not cry about two games you spilled on the carpet and kind of went to waste.
That's all there really is to it. It must have been a pretty simple meeting over at NHL HQ. Europe is a somewhat neglected market that eats up the NHL and we might have competition there in the foreseeable future, not to mention present. Let's toss them a bone by playing a couple games over there and act like they mean something. Sounds good to me.


  1. from an overseas point of view, I must say I'm happy with this european opening of the season. It's nice to see the nhl thinking about its european fans. But I'm more skeptical about a future expansion in Europe. Not only because of travel and logistics, but also because of the cultural aspect of things. Europeans who love hockey already have favourite teams and enemies. I'm not so sure the prestige of the nhl brand would be enough to divert fans from their original teams to support new franchises. Especially if there are only 6 to 8 of them in Europe. That would mean probbly one team in Finland, one or two in Sweden, one in Germany, one in Slovakia, one in Czech Republic. It won't be easy to built rivalries and fan suport for those teams with no history.

  2. I think it might be fans are more upset about the season opening over in Europe. It virtually went unnoticed between MLB playoffs, college/NFL football.

    Every other sports' opening days seem to be a bigger deal. No reason the NHL couldn't do that as well.

  3. Agreed GFH; they could open the season on Mars but I guarantee it wouldn't be properly marketed. The only thing the have done well is the outdoor game but they have to do better on the other 364 days of the year.

  4. During their respective off seasons, my hometown newspapers have daily articles on the football, basketball and baseball teams - but not on the hockey team. The hockey team doesn't even get a story every day during the NHL season.