Yzerman, Lightning Come Close to Denying VERSUS Interviews

From Chris Stevenson of the Toronto Sun:

Steve Yzerman was one of the most gentlemanly players you could meet. He’s a thoughtful, soft-spoken man. But he is not letting go of the feud that has developed between his Tampa Bay Lightning and the Versus commentators — Pierre McGuire, Keith Jones and Mike Milbury — who ripped his club for the 1-3-1 fiasco Nov. 9 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Yzerman and the Lightning considered boycotting Versus interviews when the network showed up to televise the Tampa Bay game against the Minnesota Wild this week but granted access in the end. Yzerman did put it out there that a repeat of the kind of comments he heard Nov. 9 and the Lightning would shut the door on Versus. Apparently Versus commentator Brian Engblom came close to ticking the Lightning off again when he asked the Bolts’ Marty St. Louis if the system keeps the team from scoring as many goals as it might otherwise.

NHL Up Big in Many Local TV Markets, Shows Growth Elsewhere in First Quarter

NEW YORK (December 6, 2011) – During the first quarter of the regular season, the National Hockey League (NHL) introduced a number of new initiatives, experienced record consumption across digital, broadcast and retail platforms while introducing a number of new initiatives and securing a number of agreements with new and existing corporate partners.


“We are continuing to offer new and enhanced ways for our fans to engage, consume and interact with NHL hockey,” said John Collins, NHL chief operating officer. “It is this consistent emphasis on innovation and productive partnerships that has sustained the growth and momentum the League has been experiencing over the past six years.”


Fan Demand for Digital Content Continues to Grow

Regardless of outlet, NHL fans continue to demonstrate an increasing appetite for everything NHL through digital platforms. This season’s digital highlights include:




· Through the first two months of the NHL season, Unique Visitors (UVs) to NHL.com are up 17 percent over last season’s record numbers; video starts have increased 45 percent; page views are up 8 percent and articles read are up 27 percent.


· In November, monthly UVs were up 26 percent and video starts were up 44 percent year-over-year.


· In November, UVs were up 33 percent in the U.S. and up 11 percent in Canada; UV’s from outside North America were up 42 percent – including a remarkable increase in the Czech Republic (+255 percent).


NHL Mobile


· Through November, NHL Mobile web saw page views increase 93 percent year-over-year with Canada up 73 percent, the U.S. up 39 percent and outside of North America up 357 percent. Time spent on NHL mobile has increased by 83 percent.


· Total mobile page views account for 39 percent of total digital page views since start of season.


NHL Social


NHL fans continue to flock to social media platforms to consume content and participate in NHL conversations.


· Through November, the League experienced a 5.2 percent increase in its social communities (Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare.)


· Direct commerce orders driven by NHL social media properties were up 119 percent over last year.


NHL GameCenter LIVE


· As the League continues to serve fans’ demand through its premium streaming service NHL GameCenter LIVE, subscriptions for this product are up 113 percent season-to-date compared to the same time period last year.



First Quarter Filled With TV Ratings Highlights


Eleven local Regional Sports Networks experienced double- and triple-digit growth, including:

· Nashville (+200 percent)

· Carolina (+125 percent)

· Florida (+100 percent)

· Tampa Bay (+71 percent)

· Philadelphia (+60 percent)

· Boston (+57 percent)

· Minnesota (+53 percent)

· San Jose (+44 percent)

· Buffalo (+26 percent)

· Edmonton (+21 percent)

· New York Rangers (+14 percent)


Opening Weekend

VERSUS opened its seventh year of NHL coverage with the most-watched regular season game in the network’s history (874,000 viewers, up 20 percent over last year’s opening game) as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Boston Bruins, 2-1, on the night the Bruins raised their first Stanley Cup banner in 39 years.


CBC’s HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA attracted a record audience before the first puck drop of the season, as its opening-night pre-game show on Thursday, Oct. 6, drew nearly one million viewers (929,000) — a 66% increase over last season. Then, 1.935 million Canadians watched the classic season-opening match-up between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs – beating last year’s opening-game mark of 1.923 million.


In all, 16 million Canadians — representing 47.7% of the total population, according to Nielsen/BBM Canada — watched all or part of a local or national NHL broadcast during Opening Weekend (Thu-Sun).

NHL Merch Experiences Record-Breaking Sales for Opening of Holiday Season


Coming off another successful Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend with record sales at the NHL Powered by Reebok Store in New York City and online at Shop.NHL.com, merchandise sales online, in-arena and at retail locations have increased 15 percent year-to-date. Highlights of this growth include:


· Sales at the NHL Powered By Reebok Store in New York were up 48 percent for the opening holiday season compared with the three-day period last year and up 41 percent on Black Friday, Nov. 25


· On Dec. 3, the flagship store set a new one-day record in sales volume in its four-year history. The Dec. 3-4 weekend also broke previous records for two-day and weekend sales since the store’s opening in October 2007. Overall, sales for the month of November at the midtown destination increased 17 percent over November of last year.


· Shop.NHL.com, operated by e-commerce provider Fanatics, generated 23 percent 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 percent 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.


NHL Media Assets Secure New Marquee Talent


NHL Network/NHL.com


NHL Network and NHL.com have added several personalities to their rosters of talent since the start of the season, including:



· Barry Melrose, ESPN’s signature hockey voice for 18 years, is now serving as an NHL Network analyst at marquee League events, including the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, NHL All-Star, the Stanley Cup Final, NHL Awards and the NHL Entry Draft. Melrose is also contributing a blog – Melrose Minute – on NHL.com.


· Kathryn Tappen, a former studio host at the New England Sports Network (NESN), joined the NHL Network as a host of its signature show: NHL On the Fly. She also will co-host the network’s coverage at major NHL events.

· Jeremy Roenick, who played 18 seasons in the NHL and was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010, has created the World According to JR blog for NHL.com, lending his outspoken and candid voice to what is happening around the League.


· Melrose, Tappen and Roenick join returning contributor Kevin Weekes, the former NHL goaltender and current NHL On the Fly analyst, who is now featured four days a week on NHL.com with video and written entries with his Weekes on the Web column.


Corporate Partners Continue to Align with the NHL


In the past two months, four significant strategic corporate partnerships either were renewed or added to the NHL family:


· Discover renewed a multi-year sponsorship agreement as an Official Partner of the NHL® in the U.S. As part of this agreement, Discover secured the title sponsorship of the inaugural NHL on NBC broadcast on Thanksgiving Friday, known as the 2011 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown™. Discover also participated in a co-branded float titled “Frozen Fall Fun” that made its debut in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®, promoting the Thanksgiving Friday game.



· Paramount Pictures entered into a strategic marketing partnership in support of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL, the action-packed spy adventure starring Tom Cruise. As part of this partnership, the NHL, along with North American broadcast partners NBC, VERSUS, TSN, TSN2 and NHL Network, are promoting the film across its platforms, integrating the teamwork narrative central to the “Mission: Impossible” series into game broadcasts and online features.


· Tim Hortons, one of North America’s largest quick-service restaurant chains, became the title sponsor of this season’s NHL All-Star Game — deepening the company’s multi-year partnership as the Official Quick Service Coffee, Donut and Breakfast Restaurant of the NHL in Canada.

· Visa renewed as a proud sponsor of the NHL and NHLPA in Canada for an additional three years, continuing the designation of Visa as the Official Payment Card of the NHLPA and NHL in Canada.


NHL Original Productions


The NHL announced the creation of NHL Original Productions, an initiative that joins forces with renowned executive producer Ross Greenburg, through Ross Greenburg Productions, to create original, long- and short-form hockey programming for the League’s media assets and NBC Sports beginning this season.



NHL Broadens International Broadcast Distribution


With more than 25 percent of its players hailing from outside of North America, the NHL enjoys a significant demand from fans around the world. To serve these fans a number of distribution agreements were reached this season with international broadcasters throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Most notable was the landmark distribution partnership between the NHL and MTG to provide live coverage of all 1,230 regular-season games and every Stanley Cup® Playoffs game throughout the Nordic region, including Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. For a complete listing of international broadcast partners, click here.


NHL Launches Websites in Seven Different Languages

As part of a larger, cross-media strategy to better activate International fans of the NHL, the League has created the most relevant, country-specific NHL media experience for the Web by introducing NHL websites in Czech, Finnish, German, Russian, Slovak and Swedish at the start 2011-12 season. The League also launched an official website published in French (LNH.com) to serve the NHL’s passionate Francophone fanbase as a complement to the English-language NHL.com.



These innovations reflect the fact that more than 20 percent of the overall digital audience for NHL hockey comes from countries outside of North America, with six nations – Czech Republic, Germany, Finland, Slovakia, Sweden and Russia – representing 50 percent of the International digital audience. Each of these six countries experienced double- or triple-digit year-over-year growth for video starts on NHL.com last year, demonstrating the opportunity for native-language NHL Web sites.


What They’re Saying About the NHL


· [The NHL is in] “an innovative new era” Sports Illustrated.com, 11/23/11


· “The National Hockey League has never been on stronger ice in the United States.” Variety , 10/7/11


· “For Marketers, Media, Fans, NHL Brand Is Hot On Ice.” Big Lead Sports, 10/17/11

Hockey Night in Punjabi Returns

Sidney Crosby isn’t the only NHL comeback story on the go – CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA in Punjabi returns on Saturday, December 10 with an all-Canadian doubleheader.

With sponsorship support from Chevrolet Canada, Punjabi play-by-play voice Hanarayan Singh returns to call all the action for a third season. Two games will be available every Saturday night during the regular season, as well as oneseries per round during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“We’re thrilled to bring back our Punjabi broadcasts with Hanarayan Singh for another season as a part of CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA thanks to our new presenting sponsor, Chevrolet,” says Julie Bristow, CBC’s executive director of studio and unscripted programming. “Hockey is such a large part of our country’s culture and we’re very happy to continue to offer our national sport to even more of Canada’s diverse population on its biggest stage each week.”

“Hockey is Canada’s game, and as a longstanding supporter, we’re pleased we can help fans enjoy CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada in their native language,” said Kevin Williams, president and managing director, General Motors of Canada. “This is a simple example of how we’re focused on serving our customers and communities better than ever.”

CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA in Punjabi presented by Chevrolet will be streamed live and on-demand on CBCSports.ca/hnicpunjabi and also available free on Rogers Cable, channel 799, Shaw Digital TV, channel 328, TELUS Optik TV™, channel 131 and Bell Satellite TV and Bell FIBE TV, channel 232.

Games available in Punjabi on Saturday, December 10 include Vancouver at Ottawa at 7 p.m. ET and Edmonton at Calgary at 10 p.m. ET.


VERSUS To Debut ‘NHL 36’ Next Wednesday

As promoted by Mike Emrick on VERSUS last night, the network will debut a new series titled NHL 36 on Wednesday, December 14th before their broadcast of Chicago-Minnesota. Appropriately, the first player featured will be Patrick Kane of Chicago. The network will debut the series at 6:30 p.m. ET, leading into the NHL Live pre-game edition and the game broadcast. No word yet on future airings of the series. Also no word as of now about whether this is part of the Ross Greenburg-led NHL Productions group. I’ll try and get more on the series as we head closer to the premiere.

We Will Have Realignment

image via Cassie McClellan

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Dec. 5, 2011) — The National Hockey League

Board of Governors tonight approved a four-Conference alignment format and

authorized Commissioner Gary Bettman to implement this proposal, pending

input from the National Hockey League Players’ Association. The format

would create two eight-team Conferences and two seven-team conferences.

Under the format, every team would play every other team outside its

conference twice — once home, once away.

In the seven-team Conferences, teams would play six times — three

home, three away. In the eight-team Conferences, teams would play either

five or six times in a season on a rotating basis; three teams would play

each other six times and four teams would play each other five times. This

process would reverse each season: An eight-team Conference member that

plays an opponent six times in one season would play it five times the

following season.

The top four teams in each Conference qualify for the Stanley Cup

Playoffs. The first-place team would play the fourth-place team; the

second-place team would play the third-place team. The four respective

Conference champions would meet in the third round of the Playoffs, with

the survivors playing for the Stanley Cup.

The Conference format:






Los Angeles


San Jose









St. Louis








Tampa Bay




New Jersey

NY Islanders

NY Rangers