SBD/Issue 15/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Little Promotion Evident In Finland For Blackhawks-Panthers

This Weekend's Panthers-Blackhawks Games
First NHL Regular-Season Games In Finland
There are few billboards in Helsinki promoting Friday's and Saturday's Panthers-Blackhawks games in the city, the first NHL regular-season games to be played in Finland, despite hockey being the "clear-cut No. 1 sport" in the country, according to Len Ziehm of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The Hilton Int'l, "one of the few American hotel chains in the city," also had "nothing promoting the games." Wednesday's exhibition game between the Panthers and Finnish club Jokerit  "wasn't close to a sellout, and the games involving the Hawks might not be, either." However, both Helsinki newspapers "devoted two pages and plenty of color pictures to the Florida-Jokerit exhibition, and about 200 fans attended a pep rally Thursday in which the Hawks and Panthers showed up in game jerseys after their workouts." Ziehm: "The European experiment has been refreshing" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/2). In Miami, Barry Jackson notes FS Florida, the Panthers' TV rights-holder, is not "televising the team's first two games Friday and Saturday." FS Florida said that "because the games start at noon, and because Versus is televising Friday's game, it did not want to allot two of its 71 Panthers telecasts to the first two" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/2).

IMPACT QUESTIONED: In Detroit, Chris McCosky writes under the header, "Swedish Opener Makes No Sense For The NHL." The Blues and Red Wings are playing two games in Stockholm on Friday and Saturday, and there is "nothing to be gained, from a business standpoint, by playing games abroad" in Stockholm, Helsinki "or wherever." McCosky: "How can the NHL be thinking global when it is struggling in its main market? There is no chance the NHL is expanding to Europe. There isn't going to be any spike in merchandise sales over here" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/2). The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Ethan Skolnick wrote there is "some international marketing benefit" to playing overseas, but that "comes with the debasement of the product through the creation of an inequitable schedule." The NHL "needs to sell its product to this country first." The L.A. Times' Helene Elliott wrote the "real motivation ... is business," as Finland and Sweden are the "top-ranked countries in terms of overseas visitors to NHL.com." Meanwhile, the Hartford Courant's Paul Doyle wrote it is "not a terrible idea to spread the NHL brand to Sweden and Finland," but "forcing four teams to shift training camp overseas and open their schedule in another part of the world seems unfair to players and fans" (LATIMES.com, 10/1).

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