As the NHL expands its global footprint with games in both China and Sweden this coming season, it also is increasing its outreach to international media, holding its first-ever European player media event in Stockholm, Sweden, on Friday. The league, which has held a press event in conjunction with the NHLPA for roughly the last 10 years, typically at its N.Y. headquarters, decided to expand the initiative to include an event in Europe as well, tailored specifically to European rights holders and other media. “As we’re taking the next steps to having a greater presence internationally, it has created an opportunity for our European rights holders and other European-based media companies to connect with our league, teams and players, especially the European-born ones,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “We know the passion the fans in those countries have for the European-born players in the NHL, and we want to make sure we strengthen that connection as much as we can.” The event -- held at the television studios of Viasat, the league’s rights holder across Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden -- was slated to feature 18 players from 16 teams. Eight of the league’s international rights holders were scheduled to attend the event, including NBC, as well as more than 30 other media outlets. The event, overseen by NHL Group VP/Event Communications & Player Development Jamey Horan and the league’s communication department, offered sit-down interviews, photo shoots and other media opportunities such as green-screen shooting and hockey demonstrations. Players also were made available to local television and radio broadcasts.
EMBRACING EUROPEAN PARTNERS: Daly said it is common for some of the league’s biggest international rights holders to attend the North American media event, but this "provides them a much broader opportunity to engage with the players.” Daly: "We don’t want our European fans to feel like once these players have left for the NHL that they have lost all connection to them outside of watching the games on television. An event like this reinforces that, and it also gives us a chance to work even more closely with our rights holders, who are so important in helping us grow the game.” MTG Sport VP Per Nunstedt, whose company operates Viasat, said he welcomed the league’s outreach to Sweden and Europe as a whole. “For European leagues that we hold the right to, like the Premier League, it is much easier to do things like this. But to see how the NHL recognizes the fans in these countries too is very important,” Nunstedt said. “It’s no secret that the interest in hockey in Sweden is huge, so to have both players and games in the country this year and not just on television is fantastic not only for the fans, but for us as a rights holder.” MTG has held the NHL’s Nordic rights since '09 and signed a five-year extension in '15 that includes broadcast and online exclusivity for all league games and events through '21.
NOT QUITE READY FOR CHINA: Daly said the league will look to hold a similar event in Europe next year as well, and would consider moving the location to another city. Stockholm was selected based on hosting the two games in November. However, Daly said it was perhaps too premature to consider holding the event in multiple cities, and the league is not considering expanding the tour to China yet. He said, “Ultimately, our goal is to be engaging and growing the fan base and support for the NHL all around Europe, and we see enormous benefit from an event like this."