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Paul Nicholson
Nashvegas TN
Digital Marketing Manager at HealthTrust. Social media junkie, strategist, and app idea guy. Hockey fan, photographer, and father to 2 awesome boys.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

talkin' hockey

I just left this long segment as a reply to James Mirtle's response to my request - i asked him why he seemed to not want hockey in the US, etc. read here for the original exchange. James is a sports writer for the Globe and Mail in Toronto, so he knows what he's talking about. My question was not argumentative, but serious. Thankfully, James replied in kind and i appreciate his response.

Read here for his response post.

Now here's mine:

James,

Thank you for your response. You've been very civil and thoughtful in our discussions and i really appreciate that. It is not always the case in other places.

I also appreciate your response. I'm starting to think we don't disagree as much as i thought we did.

I don't think Kansas City would be a good place for the NHL to go. I think Las Vegas, with the additional media attention and cache that being the first NHL franchise would bring would be a huge lift to the league. I don't think Las Vegas would be a very profitable team immediately as a team in Hamilton would be, but there are considerations other than immediate profit that would benefit the league.

Let me also be clear on this: I do not think the Bettman has been a good commissioner.

I think he has done a horrible job and squandered the NHL's position in the larger sports market for years. But i don't think contraction to instant-profit Canadian cities is the solution either.

The league is profitable as it is, subsidized by the Canadian teams. If i have never thanked Canada as a whole and the fans there for making the Nashville Predators possible (and i don't think i have) let me do so right now. I have no illusions as to what makes it possible for me to go and watch the team.

The one point you make that i disagree with is that attendance is the problem in Nashville. It is not. Could attendance be better? Yes. But lets assume for a moment that the Predators had sold out every single game last year - and for good measure raised ticket prices 15%. The team lost $15mil last year. That extra ticket revenue wouldn't cover $1.5mil of that gap (more like half that).

The problem for the Predators and for much of the league as a whole is one of marketing and sponsorships. That was the point i made in my post yesterday. The NBA has learned how to make money on everything they do. The NHL on the other hand (at least the Predators and many other teams) rely on tickets and t-shirts. They seem to be waiting for the businesses to beat down their door and throw money at them. That may happen in Canada, but that simply doesn't happen in US markets when you are competing against the NFL, NBA, and MLB for revenue.

Contrary to your conclusion (that Hamilton= money and Bettman should follow it) I think Bettman follows the money too much. His biggest failure has been there. Not in trying to spread hockey to new markets, but in expecting those markets to support themselves and be instantly adopted. Bettman expects the fans to come to him, to find the league wherever it is.

Best example of this is the US TV deal. He should have sold the rights to the first post-lockout season to ESPN for $1 (even $1 Canadian). Instead he went for the higher rates that the OLN was willing to pay.

It is all about brand and associating yourself with winners. Bettman has not been able to do that.

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