SBJ/October 30 - November 5, 2006/This Weeks News

NHL will be first to go paperless for all-star vote

The NHL will be the first league to eliminate paper ballots for all-star voting this season by limiting fans to online and cell-phone submissions.

When the league lost its all-star retail and title sponsor in Best Buy last year, it was expected to move its voting to in-arena, online and cell-phone voting. But the NHL will take it a step further by not offering printed ballots or in-arena voting.

“It really creates more immediacy,” said Ed Horne, president of NHL Enterprises. “It allows fans to vote where they want, how they want, on the device they want.”

Digital balloting will begin Nov. 15 and run until January. The All-Star Game is scheduled for Jan. 24 in Dallas, marking the league’s first since 2004. The 2005 game was canceled because of the lockout, and last year’s was sacrificed because of the Winter Olympics.

The league expects the bulk of ballot submissions to be funneled through, where fans can click on a link to reach a ballot page. There they will see a list of players as well as streaming, video-game highlights supplied by ballot presenting sponsor 2K Sports. Fans also will be able to view statistics and streaming highlights of players before submitting a vote.

For those wishing to vote by phone, they can use Verizon Wireless in the U.S. or Bell in Canada to text submissions. Fans will be charged for the text, but the league will not share in that revenue.

Since the NHL will not have a retail presence, it is planning to increase its print, television and radio promotion of the voting process. Those promotions will feature balloting title sponsor Cold-fX as well as 2K Sports.

A series of three spots featuring Mark Messier promoting the new balloting process will air this week on broadcast partners Versus, CBC and NASN, which reaches Europe and Russia. This marks the first time the league has had broadcast exposure for its all-star balloting.

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