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THE NHL IS COMING! THE NHL IS COMING! HOCKEY FEST HITS HUB
Published January 19, 1996
The 46th NHL All-Star Game will be played tomorrow evening in Boston's FleetCenter, and media coverage in Boston is heavy with All-Star news and NHL profiles. The BOSTON GLOBE's David Halbfinger writes on the strategy of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in "marketing a sport whose appeal has long been too narrow, the audience too small." Bettman's plan "is a simple one. Get the sport in front of as many eyeballs as possible." Rick Dudley, Senior VP at NHL Enterprises, said the league recently went after sponsors who would give "a real commitment" to the sport. Halbfinger notes the two-year deal with Campbell Soup's Chunky brand, who, in turn, have spent heavily on point- of-purchase and in-store presence. The league has also "dropped some existing sponsors," like Thrifty Car Rental, when they "balked at the NHL's new demands for exposure" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/19). Bettman is also featured by Kevin Paul Dupont, under "Bettman Continues to Twirl His Magic." Bettman: "My focus has been: 'Give us a chance.' We have a fast-paced, hard hitting, exciting game." Bettman dismisses talk the NHL has to "catch" the NBA, NFL, or MLB. He adds, "We have to be everything we can be .... Are we there yet? No, but I think we're getting there" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/19). CRACKS IN THE ICE? In a feature in today's WALL STREET JOURNAL, John Helyar writes the All-Star weekend "reaffirms that pro hockey has finally skated out of the Dark Ages, under the guidance" of Bettman. But despite the optimism, Helyar notes some problems, including a slight drop-off in attendance. Helyar: "Too many lockout aftershocks, too many shaky franchises, too many pricey tickets. Despite the NHL's slick image, the league has a number of rough spots." Heylar examines each, writing, "All the hype in the world from NHL headquarters can't overcome local ownership weaknesses." One explanation comes from NHLPA Exec Dir Bob Goodenow: "Hockey has expanded into a bigger, more complicated business, and some teams have been owned by people who maybe saw it as a hobby or a business not deserving of their greatest attention. The new environment is hard for these owners to operate in" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/19). In Philadelphia, Les Bowen writes the 46th All- Star game comes a year later than planned due to the '94 lockout, and "it's safe to say that very few people eagerly awaited its return" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/19). In Ottawa, Roy MacGregor writes that "one day sports historians may say it was here [in Boston] ... where hockey took leave of this world." He writes of Fox's new computerized puck, the video enhanced NHLFANtasy at the World Trade Center, and, "much to the shock of those who came of age during the 1960's, you will find Peter Max" -- the official artist of the All-Star Game (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/19).