The final act of the Vancouver Olympics captivated a continent. In a thrilling contest, perhaps the best game possible on the biggest stage in sport, Canada’s hockey team withstood the challenge of the surprising Team USA. Despite a last-minute regulation USA goal, Sydney Crosby’s overtime tally sealed the gold medal for the red-and-white.
And the buzz was off the charts across the US. The ratings haven’t come in yet, but, this will probably rank as one of the most-viewed hockey games in years, especially in the United States.
So how can the National Hockey League reap the benefits of this renewed interest in the “coolest game?”
1. Push Ryan Miller – Despite dominating the NHL this season, Ryan Miller has not been a household name. However, that has all changed. The tournament’s MVP is now one of the most well-known hockey players in the world. His performance in Vancouver was a textbook definition of how a goaltender can put a team on his back. Whenever they can, the NHL should make sure Miller and his Sabres get major exposure.
2. Grassroots Initiatives – The window will only stay open so long without immediate and impactful action in the United States. The time is NOW to increase community-level initiatives to get kids on the ice and develop the players who can win gold in future games. Make no doubt, there were kids watching today who want to play this game. Take advantage of their interest – and the interest of parents to fund the not-cheap venture!
3. Globalize the League – NHL players come from dozens of nations and made up a significant percentage of Olympic rosters. The NHL must continue to brand itself as the ONLY hockey league top-flight players should want to play in. Over the years, Russia’s KHL has become an attractive alternative to Eastern Block players, which hurts the NHL’s credibility (albeit incrementally). Why not run an all-out international exhibition tour during the preseason this coming Fall? Let Ovechkin play a game in Russia. Bring a contest to Sweden. Show hockey fans and players what the NHL is all about.
Those are my suggestions – what else can the NHL do to maximize this wave?
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