NHL Named Pro Sports League Of The Year By The Sports Business Journal
The NHL has announced that is the recipient of the Pro Sports League of the Year honor from the Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily. The award comes shortly after the league announced its new television contract with NBC/Comcast, and the announcement that the NHL had its fifth consecutive year or record revenue. The league expects to make nearly $3 Billion dollars by the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily have named the NHL its most recent recipient of Pro Sports League of the Year at a recent ceremony at the Marriott Marquis in New York commemorating the yearly distinction. The announcement surprised many in other leagues like the NFL, NBA, and MLB, not to mention a few hockey insiders, myself included, who have seen some of the moves of Bettman and Co. recently. Not even the trouble Coyotes have hindered the good news lately for the league. In fact, the NHL just made $25 million from the city of Glendale just to keep hockey in the desert for at least one year. That deserves an award in itself.
In fact, the maneuver to put the league in control of the Coyotes might be what one the honor. By taking control of the franchise, the NHL helped stabilize the franchise, even if it is losing money. Running the team through the league office helps keep the team value inflated while a potential buyer for the team can be found. The move, which many people mocked when it first happened, has actually been emulated by other leagues since. The NBA took control of the New Orleans Hornets for precisely the same thing. MLB has taken over day to day control of the LA Dodgers in much the same way. Who knew that Gary Bettman, businessman and thinker, would be a trend setter in 2011?
All joking aside, the league is having a renaissance probably far exceeding what the owners thought could happen when they decided to lock the players out in 2004. The league is nearly as marketable as it was during the Gretzky heyday, and continues to evolve into a more refined version of the up tempo product that was promised upon the league's reboot. Newer and younger stars are emerging left and right. Small market teams are seeing success on the ice. A handful, like Columbus and Atlanta, have been losing money each season, but a strong revenue sharing program helps offset those losses. The league seems to be profiting from every angle. With the recent television contract on the books, expect revenue to continue to rise.
The only thing that seemed to go wrong for the league this year was the injury to Sidney Crosby. And despite the negative connotation of the statement, the league may have benefited from it. It allowed the league to focus on the rest of the league, and not just on one or two players. A big campaign of the league this season was to push for fans of the game, not necessarily fans of individual teams. Fans of the game are more likely to watch more hockey. They will be interested in all games that they can consume. Fans of specific teams teams will, in the suit's eyes, tune out when their team isn't playing. However the league markets itself, it seems to work.
For the fifth consecutive season, the NHL saw its revenue rise to record levels. By the time the season finally ends after the Stanley Cup Finals, the league expects to total about $2.9 billion for the 2010-11 season. The money is about 15% higher than last season for NHL Enterprises. Besides hockey related money, the league also saw corporate sponsorship increase by 33%. Companies from McDonald's to MillerCoors, Discover Card to Tim Horton's have climbed on board the NHL express recently. The league has also seen a huge increase in digital traffic, as well as an increasing awareness of social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. The league had it's highest rated Stanley Cup Final last summer, and followed it up with the highest rated Winter Classic to date. While some local TV markets showed abysmal ratings, more than half the teams in the league actually increased viewership this past season, according to the league website.
The league has seen an almost phoenix like rise since the lockout wiped out an entire season, despite the fact they are struggling with a money pit in Phoenix. Hockey is regaining a foothold in popular culture, and is even gaining fans slowly with the excitment and quality of play in the league. Not everyone will be a hockey fan, but the NHL is trying its best to convert everyone. As the Sports Business Journal award shows, hockey is actually doing something right for once. Game on!
Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms. He is skating extra shifts for The Sports Bank, covering the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and NCAA hockey all year long. Look for new articles throughout the week. He can be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bryanvickroy . If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .