For the fan in enemy territory

Saturday, December 17, 2011

NHL dropped the puck, literally and figuratively

The NHL has been developing a post-holiday tradition. It's called the NHL Winter Classic. They match two teams in a stadium for an outdoor hockey game. Imagine the movie "Mystery, Alaska" but for real. This year, the NHL decided to exploit a fierce and long standing rivalry to showcase.

The game will match the New York Rangers (insert cheers here) against the Philadelphia Flyers (insert expletive of your choice now)on January 2nd in Philadelphia. Both teams are fighting for the top spot in the Atlantic division with the Broad Street bullies holding on to first right now. The Rangers are five points behind them in the standings. This is sure to be a great game.

As the event draws closer and all preparations are finalized, the hype grows more intense. There's just one problem. The NHL messed up by scheduling this nationally showcased game in Philly. If they want to show the NHL in a respectful and intelligent manner, they failed miserably. I know the game hasn't even been played, but trust me, the NHL has already failed at appearing respectful. The fans will no doubt be rude and even more belligerent than usual.

With the holidays in the past at that point, the NHL, and the wonderful fans of the Rangers that are unfortunate enough to travel to Philly and endure that afternoon of assault, will see a very unfriendly representation of the so-called city of "brotherly love". If the NHL had the foresight they would have scheduled the game in New York City. This would have accomplished three things.

First, they would have had a much bigger audience. Here's why. If the average fan is clicking around on a Monday, their attention will be short. After their pockets are empty from overspending on the holidays and their perpetual holiday buzz is over, they will be looking for something to watch that they can have an invested interest in.

The city of New York has a prestige and a prominence that is unrivaled. It is a city that boasts big game hype. What sports fan would be highly interested in a "holiday" type hockey game to rival the college football slugfest that viewers will endure the weeks before, if that said game is in a mid-level market city like Philadelphia? No one will.

Only true fans of the sport will be tuning in for it. The point of the Winter Classic is to bring in new viewers and fans. Does the NHL really expect a new viewer to watch an unmarketable team like the Flyers in Philadelphia? They have no star power in the current league.

Only the real fans can name any of their roster (except for Jagr). The NHL has to pair that team with a well known organization that has a lot of talent and marketable players. Enter the New York Rangers. If the league NEEDS the Rangers, they should showcase them on their turf.

Secondly, the NHL is not the only ones trying to cash in on the viewers. The networks are too. NBC is looking to make a big profit from marketing the NHL in one big game a year. This is the one they hype all throughout the fall and into early winter, Why, then, would the network want to show the statue of Rocky and the "LOVE" statue a thousand times in three hours?

Wouldn't it be a better atheistic experience for the viewer, and a more memorable and enjoyable one for that matter, to show more recognizable and more cherished scenery? Don't get me wrong. The Rocky statue, the Liberty Bell and even the Philly Art Museum have been wonderful icons for the hard-working people of Philadelphia. However, the average viewer in middle America is not interested in Gino's Cheesesteaks or the Philadelphia Creme Cheese factory.

Let's be honest here. The average fan wants to see Times Square and Rockerfeller Center. They want to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. There really is no comparison. New York City has the Statue of Liberty and Philly has Rocky? This makes them a more inviting destination for the NHL viewer?

Finally, New York presents a more pleasant atmosphere: the fans, the ambiance, the "melting pot" that is New York. This all leads to a coming together across cultural divides to cheer for a team and a sport that has a cemented reputation with one culture. Hockey has basically been considered a "white" sport. The NHL needs to show that there are more than just white people flocking to it.

Within the city limits, we know that Rangers games are full of all creeds and colors. They don't know that in Duluth or Nashville, though. Isn't that all-inclusive, all-embracing image what the NHL should be trying to obtain? The city of New York has very respectful and knowledgeable fans. With the exception of a few isolated incidents aside, the fans of New York are intelligent and inviting.

They are the perfect welcome mat for a sport to showcase their biggest game in front of on national television. Yet, the NHL wants the viewer to see drunk and screaming neanderthals without a shred of dignity or class flip off Rangers players and fight in the stands with everyone all while holding their beer securely in their hands until they pour it on a child or throw it at Santa Claus. Great choice NHL.

Before they drop the puck at center ice on January 2nd, the average fan needs to be warned what they will have to be tortured with. They blew this chance at breaking away from the NBA as a top three national sport, taking advantage of the NBA's dip in popularity as a direct result of their lockout.

At this rate, the NHL would rank somewhere below underwater darts if there is any bad incident or misrepresentation of the the image of the league in that national spot. Let's face it, if any city is capable of breaking under the pressure of being on their best behavior, it's Philadelphia.

New York, on the other hand, has hosted big event after big event, time after time after time. They are not only used to the spotlight, they thrive within it. Isn't that the type of city the NHL should want to host their biggest game? While logic, reasoning and the knowledgeable fans are all saying "yes", the NHL is saying "no".