The LA Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup on June 11, 2012. Champions of the NHL. They’ll begin their title defense on January 19th, 2013. That’s 221 days for those of you keeping track. 221 days since the NHL last played a game. 510 regular season games were cancelled due to the labor dispute that led to the NHL’s lockout. The 2nd in less than 10 years. The question everyone is asking now is, now that the NHL returns to the ice will there be anyone there to cheer them on?
One of the toughest jobs in North America right now has to be that of a Marketing/PR person for the league and its 30 teams. From Miami to Winnipeg and Vancouver to Raleigh, people are trying to figure out how to get the fans back. Apologies have been posted, some more heartfelt than others, and deals galore. While no one has gone the overt route of free tickets & beer there have been some pretty good ones from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Are 25% discounts at the team store, free nachos, and the equivalent of $8 tickets enough to get people to come back to the arena? All the while battling traffic, paying for parking, and dealing with crowds? Will the fans return to the sports bars and buy food and drinks? Will they even watch when they’re at home? Will they care?
The answer is that we’re not going to know until they drop the puck. People may say one thing and do another. Even the people who say that they are done with hockey may return next season. We just don’t know. The promotions help but PR and marketing can only do so much. Eventually the play on the ice has to be compelling enough for the people to come back.