By Lisa Ovens
Now that the NHL Pre-season is winding down, I will share an idea for next year. If the NHL follows this idea, they just might move up in the pro sports food chain.
Several years ago I wrote a piece for my book about a pre-season hockey festival I cooked up while lying around the house. In my opinion, the pre-season is an under utilized sales and marketing season for the NHL. Unfortunately Lisa’s Fantasy Pre- Season Hockey Festival ended up on the cutting room floor during the editing stage (except for the hockey film festival segment).
It’s been four NHL pre-seasons since I wrote the bit, and I am still convinced it’s a good idea, because the NHL has yet to make some noise during what should be considered a prime marketing season. And wouldn’t it be sweet to silence the yearly parade of critics complaining about too many pre season games, the games don’t mean anything blah blah blah. Here it is. A condensed version that is...
My idea was pretty simple: each NHL division picks one city to host a tournament involving the division teams. Perhaps the team selected could be the team that’s hurting the most for ticket sales and general public interest. A good example of this might be the Pacific Division, with the Phoenix Coyotes hosting the Kings, Sharks, Ducks, and Stars.
It could be one week long, using the weekends to throw parties, events and promotions mixed in with games held over the entire week. In my fantasy pre season festival, the pre-season tournament games tickets only cost $19.99 each, because in order to attract new fans, the tickets need to be cheap. In my festival new and casual fans would have the opportunity to learn about their home team’s rivals and will have the opportunity to experience a mini season of rivalry, fights, winners, losers and one champion all within nine days. What a way to hook’em in for the regular season, eh?
The host team could offer great deals on regular season ticket packages that are only valid if purchased during the pre- season festival. The four visiting teams could also use this festival to offer special deals and promotions to their fans at home. The tournament itself can still be like the way the pre-season is now: prospects and invited players will still be showcasing their talent and fighting for roster spots. Coaching staff will still be testing and evaluating players’ fitness and conditioning levels. This stuff will just have a “festival” back drop, and it would play out over a nine day period of time. Plus everyone would meet me as I signed their copy of Hockey & High Heels because the league bought hundreds of them to give away (remember this is MY fantasy pre-season festival – haha!).
The host city will be in charge of planning events and publicity stunts to attract media and public attention. This is where the Hockey Film Festival came into my idea. The host team partners up with a movie theatre that will show a variety of hockey films over the nine days. Both the theatre and the hockey team could invite local sponsors to host a film night with prize give aways. Hockey Festivals in the United States could really push showings of the movie Miracle: the one win that almost all Americans identify as the most important sports moment of their nation’s history. Other event ideas I had...a celebrity dunk tank, General Manager’s Pancake Breakfast, a formal charity evening event perhaps centering around a fashion show, a casino night or a roast, any of those would do, but there has to be a “red carpet” paparazzi and fan filled extravaganza preceding the event.
Speaking of fans, fans of the visiting teams would make the trek to the host city. Partnerships would be established with hotels, restaurants, tour operators etc offering special deals. Travelling hockey fans are the best of the bunch: they add colour and fun to the event. I caught quite a few Memorial Cup games when it was held in Vancouver two years ago. That was fun. All kinds of jerseys and fanatics in the crowd made the games extra special.
I really believe the NHL should consider something like this for next season. It’s a way to shake up the current schedule. It’s a way to shorten the pre-season without affecting the usual hockey operations activities at this time of year. It’s a way to welcome new fans to the game, and a way for committed fans to celebrate their passion.
Until this happens, it will be forever known as Lisa’s Fantasy Pre-Season Hockey Festival. Come on, NHL...don’t let me have all the fun!
Photo: Jobing.com Arena, home of the Phoenix Coyotes
Photographer: Lisa Ovens