The NHL is currently in the middle of its annual general manager meeting (you know, the one where they can make changes but don’t). For a summary of the news that has come out of the league be sure to check it out here. Something that came out of the meeting that really rubbed me the wrong way is the report that teams will not release their protection lists for the expansion draft this spring.
This is yet another in a long list of missteps the NHL has taken in recent years that at best frustrates its long-time fans and at worst is a detriment to their efforts to carve out space in the American sports market. The NHL’s response to these things is “that’s not what our fans are interested in,” a line trotted out for a variety of reasons.
The idea fans don’t care about the inner workings of teams is ridiculous. Prior to General Fanager meeting its unfortunate demise, its expansion draft tool was one of the used areas of their website. Current reigning cap site CapFriendly.com also has a widely used tool for the expansion draft.
Countless time has been spent on digital ink and recorded on podcasts speculating about which players each team may lose and who each team will protect. By not releasing these lists to the public fans are robbed of an opportunity to become more invested in the process as it is happening.
Sure, after it’s done we will see who was taken and what the Vegas team looks like, but with the lists released, you can increase the speculation about who might have been taken and keep it in the public eye. Further to this, it robs the actual Vegas fans a bit of seeing how their team came together.
This isn’t the first time that the NHL has been this short-sighted. That the NHL refuses to create its own salary cap website is ridiculous. Once again the answer is “We don’t think our fans are interested in that kind of stuff.” Yet since the salary cap has been instituted CapGeek, General Fanager and Cap Friendly are all bookmark pages for hockey fans.
Hockey Analytics, Fancy Stats or whatever you want to call them were ignored by the NHL for years. Finally, they teamed up with SAP to put their own analytics on their stats page but even here failed miserably. Not only did they rename all the statistics for no reason they also didn’t get the stats calculations right leading to many of them being flat out wrong compared to other resources.
The place where the NHL fails the most, and this falls on the community as a whole, is their disdain for interesting individuals. My opinion is the reason the NHL fails to capture more fans in the United States is a failure to market its players. Sure Sidney Crosby is a great hockey player; he’s also one of the most vanilla personalities to walk the face of the planet.
One of the best things that happened this last year for hockey in the United States was P.K. Subban being traded to Nashville. How many times has Nashville been on national TV, though? Not nearly enough.
The Sharks have Brent Burns who is an interesting character who again does not get enough TV time because of time zone. Marketing the best players in the game is all well and good but not only do they not highlight the ones with the personality, you have pundits on their national broadcast telling you in some cases why these players are bad for their team. This isn’t even bringing up how they repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot (the John Scott All Star Game fiasco comes to mind).
The NHL is failing in more than a few markets and could even be greater in the markets where they are strong if only they would stop telling fans what they want. Even if you don’t want to give fans what they want, maybe stop unloading into your own feet with both barrels.