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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-20-24 PDF
February 20, 2024
2-12-24 PDF
February 12, 2024

NHL outdoor games; is less more?

The+last+Winter+Classic%2C+in+Philadelphia%2C+was+a+sight+to+behold
The last Winter Classic, in Philadelphia, was a sight to behold

Since its inception in 2008, the National Hockey League (NHL) Winter Classic has become a spectacle not just for hockey fans, but for sports fans alike. The ambiance of hockey goes back to it’s roots of the outdoors, and NHL-ers who once played pond hockey as boys now play like seasoned veterans but still show that same passion. It truly is a remarkable event, both entertainment-wise and success-wise. Since 2008, the Winter Classic has brought in an average of 4.1 million viewers. It is for that reason that the NHL has decided to increase the number of outdoor games this year, but is that the right move?
The NHL has added the new “Stadium Series” to the bill of outdoor games this season. It is undoubtedly trying to see how far they can take this gold mine before it becomes just another game on the schedule. That is the primary worry of fans; will the game lose its appeal?
They have very good reasons to worry about that. The game became so popular due to its four-month hype, with careful planning in what teams would play and what venue would it be in. However, if the NHL’s outdoor games are just turning into another marketing scheme, then the purity of the event will quickly diminish.
Now if this plan works out for the NHL it could slightly repair the severely tarnished tenure of Gary Bettman as commissioner. It could bring more young fans in and possibly get NHL hockey a little bit closer to the other three North American professional sports leagues, which have become international phenomenons. The idea is for the uniqueness of the event to be everlasting. However, I simply don’t think that is possible.
In the end this could be the NHL’s form of what the MLB did with it’s All Star game. The All Star game was so interesting because it allowed American League and National League fans to get a look at players they never saw their teams play. It was that uniqueness to it that made it great. Then baseball tried to mass produce that uniqueness by creating inter-league play. Since then the MLB All Star game’s ratings have continued to drop every year, because the original product had become stale.
No question that the NHL really has something special here: a truly captivating event that takes hockey backs to its roots for both fans and players. It reminds everybody of those days when we would just grab a stick, pair of skates, and a trash can and just go to a frozen pond and play all day and night. However the NHL is heading down a dangerous road that has only two possible outcomes: fans simply can’t get enough of the outdoor play and it brings in new fans from all climates, or this event loses its appeal and even life-long hockey fanatics cease to clear their schedule on New Year’s Day. If this works, the NHL will be taken to a new height of marketing success, but if it doesn’t, the NHL will have wasted a chance to do that very same thing had they not rushed into it and instead use it to create new ideas, and possibly send themselves back into the dark ages of media attention. I hope for the fans’ sake that the latter is not the outcome.