SBJ/May 28 - June 3, 2007/This Weeks News

NHL boosts entertainment to draw viewers

The Stanley Cup Finals will feature intermission performances and supplementary events this year for the first time in its history, as the NHL attempts to attract additional TV viewers and raise the profile of the games.

Musical guests will perform during intermission at one of the first two games in Anaheim. The names and dates weren’t available at press time. Also, the league will host a special event titled “Salute to Stanley Cup Legends” on Friday honoring members of the 1955-60 Montreal Canadiens.

Though other events like the Super Bowl and NBA Finals have mixed entertainment with sports for years, the idea is new for the NHL, which has emphasized blending music and entertainment with hockey since the lockout.

“It’s not a new concept,” said Ken Yaffe, the NHL’s senior vice president of business affairs. “It’s something from our end we think should be part of our game production as we try to make it more of a spectacle.”

Last year, the league averaged an all-time low 1.8 rating during the seven-game Cup Finals featuring Carolina and Edmonton. The performances may offer a way to improve those ratings.

“They cast a wider net and may bring some new viewers who might not otherwise be watching but may tune in to see an artist at the top of the chart,” Yaffe said.

The off-day “Salute to Stanley Cup Legends” was first brainstormed eight months ago. More than 200 people have been invited to attend the event, which will feature a roundtable discussion with six members of the Canadiens teams from the 1950s. The league hopes to make the event an annual off-day feature during the Cup Finals.

The league planned a series of other hospitality events this week, as well.

In Anaheim, it plans to have a tented area outside the Honda Center where it will host team and league business partners and celebrity guests from Southern California. Since the game starts at 5 p.m. PT, Yaffe expects the tent to be used following the games.

In Ottawa, the league has a golf outing prior to Game 4 on June 4. There will also be a trophy display of the Stanley Cup in the city, and players Sidney Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier, Manny Fernandez and Niklas Backstrom will attend Game 3.

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