Make Fun of It’s Silly Name All You Want, the NHL Did Well on Cyber Monday

NEW YORK (December 1, 2011) – The National Hockey League (NHL®) recorded

another successful Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend with record sales

at the NHL Powered by Reebok store in midtown New York City and online at

Shop.NHL.com. The on-ice success of hot-market teams coupled with newly

available 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® merchandise, fashion-forward

men’s and women’s lifestyle apparel and headwear, plus a wide variety of

offerings from new licensees have resulted in a 15% increase year-to-date

in sales of NHL merchandise online, in-arena and at retail locations.

Fans flocked to the NHL Powered by Reebok store in midtown New York City

during Thanksgiving weekend, driving sales up 48% over the three-day period

last year and up 41% on Black Friday, Nov. 25. Nov. 25 and Nov. 26 have

moved into the top five most successful days in sales volume in the

flagship store’s history since its opening in October 2007. Overall, sales

for the month of November at the midtown location are up 17% from last

year.

Shop.NHL.com, the official online store of the NHL, generated 23% more

sales than last year during the four-day Thanksgiving holiday shopping

weekend. Cyber Monday, Nov. 28 was the top-selling day in Shop.NHL.com

history, up 61% from last year and besting the previous one-day sales

record set after the Boston Bruins’ Game 7 victory to capture the 2011

Stanley Cup®.

“Just when we think the bar can’t go any higher, our fans’ enthusiasm for

great new NHL products combined with the popularity of the NHL Winter

Classic, rings up another record year,” said Brian Jennings, NHL executive

vice president of marketing. We’re grateful that once again, NHL

merchandise is on more holiday shopping lists than ever before.”

Helping drive the NHL’s 15% year-to-date sales growth are the impressive

double-digit gains in men’s and women’s apparel triggered by a burgeoning

variety in high-quality lifestyle offerings from NHL licensees 47 Brand,

Old Time Hockey, Reebok, Mitchell & Ness, Red Jacket, G-III and Touch by

Alyssa Milano. NHL® Pillow Pets and Bleacher Creature player dolls are

among the new NHL licensed products gaining in popularity among fans this

holiday season.

2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® jerseys, apparel, cold-weather wear

and gifts and novelties continue to perform well in stores and online. Last

week’s unveiling of the Flyers’ NHL Winter Classic jersey and the

introduction of the NHL Winter Classic knit hats worn by New York Rangers

and Flyers players during pre-game activity Saturday triggered impressive

online and in-store sales for all three products.

NHL Winter Classic products were nine of the 10 top-selling items on

Shop.NHL.com on Cyber Monday:

1. Reebok Philadelphia Flyers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Reversible Knit Hat

2. CCM 2012 NHL Winter Classic Dueling Event T-shirt

3. Reebok Boston Bruins Premier Home Jersey

4. Reebok Philadelphia Flyers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Premier Jersey

5. HBO 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the 2011 NHL Winter Classic DVD

6. Reebok New York Rangers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Reversible Knit Hat

7. Reebok Philadelphia Flyers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Tassle Knit Hat

8. Reebok Philadelphia Flyers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Claude Giroux Premier

Jersey

9. CCM Philadelphia Flyers 2012 NHL Winter Classic Thermal

10. Reebok New York Rangers 2012 NHL Winter Classic T-shirt

NHL Live: VERSUS’ Under the Radar Success Story

I’ve been yammering on for the past couple of months about how good it is for the game of hockey that there’s just a lot more of it out there. I believe the statistic I’ve used in the past goes something like this: during the 2005-06 season, before NBC showed up in January, counting post-game coverage (we were lucky if we got any pre-game), the typical hockey fan in the United States – watches his own team and the occasional national game, no Center Ice – saw 7 hours of original hockey programming on television. That’s games and studio shows combined on OLN, which was all that was available to us. That increased to 10 hours during the six weeks NBC showed up, but still, it was but a pittance. A pittance, I say!

Last week, counting two games on VERSUS, three episodes of NHL Overtime, one game on NBC, three games on NHL Network, and oodles of On the Fly culminating with the 1 a.m. ET final show, plus NHL Live on NHL Network, hockey fans got roughly 80 hours of hockey programming. That’s a whole lot of people talking about pucks. So nowadays, weird as it is to say, we’re kind of cluttered with people giving us their opinion on what’s happening with the league in the United States. Who knew we’d ever get here?

This is a roundabout way to me saying that VERSUS’ edition of NHL Live – not the NHL Network talk show, which I do like – is my favorite of the NHL studio shows at the moment. On the Fly is consistently solid, but will vary depending on which analysts are in studio. NHL Overtime on VERSUS is hot mess of a program that I don’t have enough webspace to discuss right now. NHL Live on NHL Network is a fun couple of hours, but lightweight at times (as a call-in show should be). VERSUS’ NHL Live is currently the best of the bunch when it comes to hockey talk, and worth catching pretty much every night.

If you haven’t been checking in regularly, it’s a pretty fun half-hour (though the hour-long edition on Wednesdays doesn’t drag, either). It launches at the rink of whatever game VERSUS is airing, with Mike Emrick or Dave Strader directing traffic to interviews between the inside the glass analysts and players participating in the game. Then, the play-by-play man will send it back to the VERSUS studios, where host Liam McHugh (NHL television’s best find of the past year or so) will lead the often irascible, but always compelling Mike Milbury (admit it, you can’t turn the TV off when he’s talking) and his solid sparring partner, Keith Jones. The clear model for this (and most sports studio shows) is Inside the NBA, with the clever host setting up both the analysts – one bombastic almost to a fault, the other more level-headed, but no pushover. Ever since the OLN days, it seems as if they’ve been trying to imitate it, but with the current Live squad, they’ve found their own formula for success.

It’s a little difficult to pinpoint why the show works so well for me. Despite the polarizing Milbury’s presence, the show can be very low key, but never boring. McHugh sort of gently challenges the other panelists (which will occasionally include Pierre McGuire or Jeremy Roenick) instead of just throwing random questions at them, something I don’t think prior hosts have really done. There’s no room for the panel to get off on tangents or nonsensical arguments like on other shows. There’s a very loose, but scripted vibe to it all. It’s no secret that the program formerly known as Hockey Central was long one of my least favorite shows to watch. The show almost always seemed directionless, but under McHugh, it’s smooth sailing.

Credit must also go to Milbury and Jones for their contributions. I always felt like Jonesy was a more interesting guy than Hockey Central would let him be because there wasn’t really anyone pushing him. With Milbury in sort of the “starring” role, he’s become more of – as I mentioned earlier – the sparring partner, and has proved a very adequate one. While people may hate Mike Milbury because they hate what he did to the Islanders or his views on headshots, you’ve gotta’ admit the guy has a presence on television like no other NHL analyst. When he’s not off on some random aside about the “wussification” of hockey – something he’s rarely allowed to do when Pierre McGuire or Ron MacLean isn’t goading him into it – he’s really good at what he does.

Why are there no tangents and blabbering on? Because, again, the show has more of a direction, there’s stuff to get to. There are interviews live from the rink. Meanwhile, they have to get into a discussion of what the teams playing that night are doing. Or they have to show a live look-in from an early game. Or Darren Dreger or Bob McKenzie is making their weekly appearance. Or there’s another feature on a player to show. These are all things that Hockey Central rarely, if ever, had to them. There’s that word again: direction. The show seems to have a brain behind it, and hockey fans are all the better off for it.

Give credit to VERSUS/NBC in all this. They completely revamped their pre- and post-game show when they really could’ve just stuck with what they had. It’s just a pre-game show, who’s really gonna’ watch outside of the fans of each team playing? While it isn’t perfect (and the late night NHL Overtime borders on unwatchable a lot of nights) with NHL Live, VERSUS has carved itself a must-see half-hour (or hour) of television on a nightly basis, regardless of whether your team is playing that night. It’s, apparently, not an easy task.