SBD/Issue 145/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NHL Benefiting From Big Market Success, Young Talents Emerging

Blues Have Sold Out 29 Games This Season
The beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year "stands as a seminal moment for the NHL in its fourth playoff season since the lockout, a nod to a new wave of talent and a return of the old markets," according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. NHL Exec VP/Production & Programming John Shannon: "It's the year of the return of the big city. All of a sudden, we're in a situation where it's actually less about players and more about the team. It's the first time in a long time, for me." Burnside noted the Blackhawks, Blues and Bruins "are all back," and the Blues are "one of the most compelling stories this season, less than three years removed from ... being roundly ignored by their fans." The club sold out four games in '06-07, Blues President John Davidson's first season in the role, but this season sold out 29 games. Davidson: "That's the biggest story for us. These people have fallen in love with our team. ... It's a hockey city, and the fans just wanted to be treated honestly, and they wanted some hope." Meanwhile, Burnside noted the league has gone from Penguins C Sidney Crosby and Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin "being the faces of the new NHL, the touchstone for fans across the NHL landscape, to a host of teams that have captured the enthusiasm of fans." Shannon "challenges: Pick three players to put on your NHL marketing poster." Shannon: "Gosh, I have a difficult time. I think there are 10 or 12 guys" (ESPN.com, 4/15).

THE TIME IS NOW: In DC, Tim Lemke writes the NHL "has a chance to dominate the sports landscape for a few weeks as it opens the Stanley Cup playoffs during a deceptively slow period in the sports landscape." It is a "small window of opportunity for the NHL, but the league is poised to take advantage with a number of compelling early-round matchups that should push the Nielsen meter upward for networks" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 4/16).

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