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Volume 26 No. 207

NHL Season Preview

Durkan was among those who spoke to the NHL Exec Committee advocating for hockey in Seattle
Photo: JENNY DURKAN
Durkan was among those who spoke to the NHL Exec Committee advocating for hockey in Seattle
Photo: JENNY DURKAN
Durkan was among those who spoke to the NHL Exec Committee advocating for hockey in Seattle
Photo: JENNY DURKAN

The NHL Exec Committee "recommended and forwarded the bid" to the league's BOG by a 9-0 vote for an expansion NHL franchise in Seattle, according to a front-page piece by Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. The BOG will vote on the bid during its December meetings in Georgia and requires 75% approval to pass, though it has "never failed to approve an expansion recommendation by its executive committee." The NHL will "monitor the progress of KeyArena's construction" to see if the arena would be "completed in time" for the expansion team to begin play in the '20-21 NHL season. The Oak View Group, which led the expansion bid process and is "handling the massive renovation" to KeyArena said that it can "have the renovation finished" by October '20. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the "focus for everybody" is beginning in Seattle with the '20-21 season. Bettman: "There are a variety of factors that could impact that, including the construction timeline. The sooner construction can begin, obviously, the more likely an early start." Baker reports members of the OVG and NHL Seattle groups "left little to chance" with their pitch to the Exec Committee. They had "planned to keep their presentation fast-paced with multiple speakers covering an array of topics." Potential team owner David Bonderman, NHL Seattle President & CEO Tod Leiweke, OVG CEO Tim Leiweke, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and new minority investor Len Potter all spoke to the committee. Film producer Jerry Bruckheimer, another investor in the team, was "brought in for some closing wow factor." Durkan was tasked with "talking up the city as enthusiastically as she could while sounding genuine in her ability to make things happen" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/3).

FINAL VOTE PENDING: The AP's Stephen Whyno notes the approval for the Seattle franchise "seems assured at this point." Bettman said the unanimous endorsement by the Exec Committee "speaks volumes" for the bid. He added that it "seems unlikely" the BOG will turn down a $650M expansion fee for the opportunity to expand in the Pacific northwest and "provide a natural geographic rival" for the Canucks. Seattle also would balance the conferences with 16 teams each. Canucks Chair Francesco Aquilini said the Seattle bid is "exciting" for the league. Aquilini: "We want a team in Seattle. It's great for Vancouver. It's great for the league. It's eventually going to happen. KeyArena is going to be built. So I think it's imminent" (AP, 10/3)

KEY DETAILS: Bettman said that if the KeyArena renovation "hits snags that delay" the projected '20 opening, the league will go with '21 as the start date, though "everybody's preference would be sooner rather than later." Tod Leiweke said that the Exec Committee "didn't spend much time" dwelling on the start date. He said, "We were talking about not one-year but the long-term viability and that's what they're thinking about. Not a year, not a day." Bonderman added, "This is not about this year. This is forever. It's a long-term partnership with the city, with long-term issues. And we're not about to get overwhelmed by short-term issues." The TIMES' Baker notes the readiness of KeyArena "won't be the only issue owners weigh when deciding" whether to launch the Seattle team in '20 or '21. Aquilini said that some of the other BOG members are "concerned about having enough time to prepare for an expansion draft so they can protect their best players better" than when the Golden Knights "pillaged the league" last summer (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/3).

EMERALD OWNERSHIP: Tim Leiweke called the bid's ownership team "as good a group of owners as I've seen, starting with David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer." Leiweke: "We've been very lucky to get David Bonderman to jump into this and we've been very lucky and very fortunate to bring in the kind of partners that have come in. If you look at those investors from Seattle, if I'm in Seattle it would give me great comfort about the future of the franchise to know that these local investors are engaged and activated." THE ATHLETIC's Jeremy Rutherford noted the Seattle group has "already paid" a $10M deposit to the NHL, and if the bid is approved, will "fork over a record" $650M expansion fee -- $150M more than the Golden Knights paid to enter the league last season. But if the Seattle franchise has "half the success the Golden Knights had" in their inaugural season, it will be "money well spent" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/2).

GET EXCITED: The AP's Whyno noted "excitement is brewing" for the potential of bringing an NHL team to Seattle. Capitals RW T.J. Oshie, a Seattle native, said, "I talked to a lot of people out there and they want this team. It'd be great for the area" (AP, 10/1). NBC's Jeremy Roenick said of the Seattle expansion, "It will happen. It's one of the bigger markets in the United States and it's right near the Canadian border, have that competition between Vancouver" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 10/2).

Twelve Predators games will be featured nationally on NBC or NBCSN this season
Photo: NBC SPORTS
Twelve Predators games will be featured nationally on NBC or NBCSN this season
Photo: NBC SPORTS
Twelve Predators games will be featured nationally on NBC or NBCSN this season
Photo: NBC SPORTS

Hockey fans have "often criticized NBC's coverage for not showing more of the NHL's young stars and the up-and-coming teams," but the net is going with a "new approach" this season as it looks to promote its re-branded "Wednesday Night Hockey" matchups, according to Joe Reedy of the AP. NBC Sports Exec Producer Sam Flood said the net will be "showcasing the brightest team and stars," which is a "great way to add new teams and stars to a big night."  Reedy noted the league has "tried to make Wednesday its night for must-see TV." NHL Exec VP & Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer said, "We're going to make Wednesday night feel special and we want our players to once we get into this to say, 'Wow, we're playing on Wednesday night.'" Reedy noted the "biggest beneficiaries of the change are the Western Conference teams," as NBCSN will "air 18 doubleheaders on Wednesday nights -- up from five last season -- and 67 of the scheduled 110 games on NBC and NBCSN will have a team from the conference." The Jets have "not made a regular-season national appearance" since '14, but "will make five this season." The Lightning and Predators will each "make 12 appearances, which is almost double what they had last season." The Golden Knights will make nine appearances on national TV, the Ducks eight and the Oilers seven, which is also "nearly twice as many appearances as last season." The traditional teams "will still get plenty of exposure" while the only teams "not scheduled to appear on NBCSN" are the Senators and the Canucks (AP, 10/2).

CROSSING BORDERS: THE ATHLETIC's Richard Deitsch notes NBCSN's Wednesday night games will "showcase more Canadian and Western Conference teams than they’ve shown in previous years." No early-season broadcast "will reflect this change more" than the Oct. 24 Maple Leafs-Jets broadcast. While Toronto and Winnipeg are not U.S. cities, they "matter to the game of hockey." Those markets "do not count in NBC’s universe as far as Nielsen-rated cities so the network loses the audience of home markets when they scheduled Canadian teams." But the "strategy is smart" if the net wants to "grow the NHL long-term, especially given the star quality" on the Maple Leafs and Jets. This season "will be a very good year" for hockey fans with cable TV (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/3).

The Kings want to "show off their star power and visibility and for people to recognize them more" with a new ad campaign featuring players in iconic L.A. locations, according to Josh Cooper of THE ATHLETIC. While L.A. has "always been a crowded sports market, it has gotten even fuller recently." The arrival of LeBron James and Galaxy F Zlatan Ibrahimovic, along with the relocation of the Rams and Chargers, has "forced the Kings to try to change the way they approach how they market their team as competition for the local entertainment dollar has beefed up." Kings COO Kelly Cheeseman said of the ads, "This campaign is just another element of that, trying to drive humor but also sticking the players in centerpoints of L.A. that are unique and make us L.A." Kings Senior Dir of Marketing & Digital Media Pat Donahue said that the idea for the campaign came from Kings Production Manager Chris Wohlers, who said, "What if [Kings D] Drew Doughty was working at a fruit cup stand?" That led to "several other ideas of putting other players in very Los Angeles-type spots." Donahue: "We were like, 'What if [Kings G Jonathan] Quick taught a yoga class? What if [Kings C Anze] Kopitar had a metal detector on the beach?' And so it came a little bit organically of just ... our players are outsiders." Cooper noted that realization "fit in with the Kings' research that they needed to show their big-time players more in ad campaigns" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/2).

The Wild are ditching Prince's “Let’s Go Crazy” as the "song played after goals" after two seasons, according to Michael Rand of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The team "paid tribute to Prince by playing the song after goals during its final playoff game" of the '15-16 season, and season-ticket holders "liked it enough that they voted to permanently change to 'Let’s Go Crazy' from Joe Satriani’s 'Crowd Chant,' which had been the goal song for a decade." According to a letter emailed to season-ticket holders, fans "surveyed this offseason favored another switch." The Wild will either "go back to 'Crowd Chant' or roll with 'Glass House' by Kaleo" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/3). The winning song will debut during the Wild's home opener against the Golden Knights. Wild VP/Brand, Broadcast & Production John Maher said, "This is something we ask fans about every summer. Musical tastes are all over the place. It's never 100 percent, but the sentiment to change was pretty strong in the last survey." Maher reaffirmed that fans are "still going to hear a lot of Prince music at our games" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/1).

ON THE MEND: In St. Paul, Dane Mizutani notes Wild Owner Craig Leipold in May underwent "last-minute surgery to replace his left hip" that "confined Leipold to a bed nearly all summer." But before last Wednesday's preseason game, he "walked into the owner’s suite and plopped down at his usual spot." Leipold said, “I used to have 37 staples in my butt. That’s how long the incision was. It had to be in order to put the hip in. They took them out last week and I was immediately more comfortable. That was a dramatic change for me, so I decided to fly up and watch the game. It was good.” After getting a "double hip replacement a few years ago, Leipold learned last winter that his left hip was infected with bacteria" so doctors had to "remove the prosthetic, pump the area clean with antibiotic spacers, and replace the implant." That took "about three months," so Leipold was "without a left hip for basically the entire summer." He had surgery on May 30, about a "week and a half after hiring" new GM Paul Fenton. Unfortunately for Leipold, he "recently found out that his right hip is infected with similar bacteria," which means he will "have to go through the same process all over again at some point" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 10/3).

Hurricanes Owner Tom Dundon said it "took a lot of work" to get NHL approval to wear Whalers jerseys in two games this season. He said both Adidas and the league were "helpful" in making it happen. Dundon said of the move, "It's something different. The Hurricanes haven’t been on the front of ESPN or The Hockey News very often, so for us to get relevant I think those are good things. We did it because we think it’s entertainment and it’s fun. We didn’t do it for any other reason. We’re not trying to honor anyone or anything. There’s nothing deep and meaningful about it" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 10/3).

OTTAWA FALLING? USA TODAY's Kevin Allen writes with the Senators "bottoming out," team Owner Eugene Melnyk "owes it to fans to act aggressively to turn the franchise around." Melnyk has repeated said that he does not want to sell the team, but Allen noted Melnyk at the "very least ... should hire a respected director of hockey operations and give that person carte blanche to rebuild and repair the team's image." The Senators "need a new face" (USA TODAY, 10/3).

IN NEED OF FIREWORKS: In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw wrote under the header, "Dallas Stars Desperately Need To Build Buzz Around The Team Early This Season -- For The Fans And Players." The Stars celebrated 25 years in Dallas last season with "regular visits from and recognition of their Stanley Cup stars from nearly two decades ago." It is the kind of thing you do when you can "no longer count on going to the playoffs." If the '18-19 season looks like something "less than special, perhaps the club will drum up local interest by celebrating the past one more time" (DALLASNEWS.com, 10/2).

STRONG SUPPORT: Syndicated columnist Norman Chad wrote as "wonderful of a sports story as the Golden Knights’ success became" last season, what "fascinated me further was the overwhelming support the team got from Las Vegas." The Golden Knights "averaged 18,042 fans per home game" and played to 103.9% capacity at T-Mobile Arena. Chad: "If I were asked one year ago today if the NHL had a real chance to draw big crowds in Las Vegas, my answer would’ve been no" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/1).

ALL PRESS IS GOOD PRESS: In N.Y., Andrew Knoll writes no player or team has "gotten more attention" leading up to the start of the season than new Flyers mascot Gritty. It looks a bit like a "towering, gruff, slightly psychedelic rendering of one of Jim Henson’s Muppets," which has "led to inspired mockery." But it has "appeared on multiple late-night talk shows in the past week, earning greater visibility than even the biggest NHL stars" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/3).

Boeser said he doesn't think hockey has been marketed on the same level as some other sports
Photo: ADIDAS
Boeser said he doesn't think hockey has been marketed on the same level as some other sports
Photo: ADIDAS
Boeser said he doesn't think hockey has been marketed on the same level as some other sports
Photo: ADIDAS

Adidas has signed a multiyear sponsorship with Canucks RW Brock Boeser, which will see last season's All Star Game MVP and Calder Trophy finalist featured in a variety of marketing campaigns. Boeser joins an Adidas hockey roster that includes Penguins C Sidney Crosby, Oilers C Connor McDavid, Stars C Tyler Seguin, Bruins C Patrice Bergeron, Predators D P.K. Subban and Sharks D Brent Burns, among others (Adidas). Boeser said of Adidas, "You look at what they’re doing with some of the league’s best players. They’re really trying to show them off and that’s something the league really hasn’t had a lot of in the past. I think it’s great for exposure and it is definitely going to help grow the game." He added, "I don’t think hockey in general has been marketed on the level as some other major sports and for Adidas to come into hockey and start showing off the biggest names has been important in selling the game (in the USA) and that’s really important to a lot of American players" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/2).

The Blackhawks not only lead the NHL in total social media followers through September across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but they are the leader on each of the individual platforms, according to data compiled by social media data firm HookIt. However, they were only 28th in the league with 3,700 new followers last month, a category in which the Penguins (21,000) led the league. Capitals RW Alex Ovechkin is twice as popular as anyone in the league right now and is the only player with more than 1 million Instagram followers. For more insightful social media metrics, check out www.resourceguidelive.com (RG LIVE).

NHL TEAM SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWING AS OF OCT. 1
RANK
PLAYER
TOTAL
TWITTER
FACEBOOK
INSTAGRAM
1
Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin
4.2M
2.7M
120,500
1.4M
2
Predators D P.K. Subban
2.1M
1.1M
172,400
799,800
3
Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist
1.6M
718,100
317,000
536,500
4
Oilers C Connor McDavid
1.1M
335,300
59,200
659,000
5
Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane
949,000
800,900
148,100
-
6
Canadiens G Carey Price
900,000
366,900
526,300
6,900
7
Flyers C Claude Giroux
864,000
777,700
10,100
76,300
8
Panthers G Roberto Luongo
795,400
795,400
-
28
9
Capitals RW T.J. Oshie
758,100
409,700
174,500
173,900
10
Canadiens RW Andrew Shaw
726,800
486,400
-
240,400
11
Stars C Tyler Seguin
705,900
161,700
4,900
539,200
12
Sharks D Erik Karlsson
668,300
283,600
7,700
377,000
13
Lightning C Steven Stamkos
609,200
496,700
99,700
12,800
14
Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews
587,100
156,800
0
430,300
15
Blues RW Vladimir Tarasenko
580,400
309,200
-
271,200
16
Penguions RW Phil Kessel
554,200
313,800
39,500
200,900
17
Devils LW Taylor Hall
535,200
504,900
30,300
-
18
Senators C Matt Duchene
509,700
344,700
19,000
146,000
19
Canadiens RW Brendan Gallagher
508,300
276,800
4,200
227,300
20
Penguins C Sidney Crosby
507,200
2,800
504,400
-
21
Coyotes C Alex Galchenyuk
488,600
235,500
16,900
236,200
22
Canadiens LW Tomas Tatar
482,800
120,200
210,200
152,300
23
Penguins D Kris Letang
441,500
152,200
-
289,300
24
Maple Leafs RW Mitchell Marner
421,500
126,400
-
295,100
25
Free Agent LW Scott Hartnell
420,500
332,400
55,400
32,800
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NHL TEAMS' SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWING AS OF OCT. 1
RANK
TEAM
FOLLOWERS
TWITTER
FACEBOOK
INSTAGRAM
1
Blackhawks
6.7M
2.5M
2.9M
1.2M
2
Penguins
5.1M
1.8M
2.1M
1.2M
3
Bruins
4.6M
1.4M
2.2M
945,700
4
Maple Leafs
4.0M
1.8M
1.4M
756,700
5
Red Wings
3.9M
1.2M
2.1M
651,800
6
Rangers
3.8M
1.4M
1.6M
842,800
7
Canadiens
3.7M
1.5M
1.6M
528,900
8
Flyers
3.2M
1.6M
1.2M
448,400
9
Kings
2.8M
1.2M
984,300
556,100
10
Canucks
2.5M
1.0M
1.0M
346,700
11
Sharks
2.2M
803,600
956,400
394,200
12
Capitals
2.2M
730,500
800,200
603,100
13
Oilers
1.9M
797,800
580,500
478,900
14
Stars
1.8M
1.1M
472,300
316,700
15
Blues
1.7M
650,900
679,100
377,100
16
Wild
1.7M
676,900
655,000
362,700
17
Lightning
1.7M
673,400
557,200
418,000
18
Sabres
1.6M
848,000
499,300
275,300
19
Avalanche
1.5M
456,300
759,400
306,900
20
Devils
1.4M
731,800
481,000
220,300
21
Ducks
1.4M
594,700
426,700
320,500
22
Predators
1.3M
576,800
403,800
313,000
23
Flames
1.3M
598,900
381,200
300,000
24
Golden Knights
1.3M
419,400
322,600
522,100
25
Jets
1.2M
526,700
390,200
325,000
26
Senators
1.2M
569,400
338,200
249,800
27
Islanders
1.1M
503,800
301,400
258,900
28
Blue Jackets
1.0M
437,000
304,400
261,000
29
Coyotes
842,900
343,600
300,200
199,100
30
Hurricanes
819,700
358,100
263,500
191,300
31
Panthers
748,900
358,200
196,000
194,700
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Mears hopes to find 20 or so worthy applicants for his new broadcasting program
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Mears hopes to find 20 or so worthy applicants for his new broadcasting program
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Mears hopes to find 20 or so worthy applicants for his new broadcasting program
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Penguins TV broadcaster Steve Mears is "launching a program that will help others" reach their goals of becoming sports broadcasters, according to Jason Mackey of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. The program will be called "Future Voices of the Booth," and is "basically a job-shadowing program started and shepherded by Mears himself." Through an application on Mears' website, "broadcasting students of any age can apply." The experience includes "two game tickets, which Mears will provide, plus a tour of the broadcast booth and plenty of shop talk." In the program's first year, Mears "hopes to find 20 worthy applicants," though he is "open to adding more if the program turns out to be a success." Mears "has the Penguins' support" with the idea, as the team will "promote the program as much as possible and potentially try to enhance the visits by those who are chosen." Penguins VP/Communications Tom McMillan: "This is an unbelievable program created by Steve to reach out and connect with aspiring young broadcasters. Chances are he'll find out in 10 or 15 years that one of these kids is doing NHL play-by-play, and he will have been the inspiration" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/3).

Coyotes radio analyst Paul Bissonnette sat for a Q&A with the ARIZONA REPUBLIC's Richard Morin and said his first year as a full-time broadcaster last season was "really fun." Bissonnette said, "I had a lot of things on the table where I was finishing up (a video project) and I had a lot of stressful things in life going on. Now, I feel like this year I can bring a little bit more to my job." He said he still does not "feel very polished" as a traditional radio broadcaster. Bissonnette: "That's probably the most work I need. I guess between that and getting a little bit better on TV with the (FS Arizona) panel with Tyson Nash, Todd Walsh and Jody Jackson. But they are easy to work with and they help tremendously" (AZCENTRAL.com, 10/2).

HABS AND HAB NOTS: In Montreal, Steve Faguy noted TSN2 will "broadcast 50 of the Canadiens' 82 regular-season games, same as last season," with the remaining games going to Sportsnet, CBC or Citytv as national games. The first year of TSN's "five-year deal for Canadiens games wasn't great to say the least." The team's "poor performance throughout the season depressed interest and ratings," leading to an average audience of 123,000, a drop of about 25% from Sportsnet's regional broadcasts the year before. However, TSN VP & Exec Producer/Live Events Paul Graham "hasn't soured" on the net's rights deal for the games. Graham: "I can't see any situation in the immediate future, even when we get past the five years, where we wouldn't be involved" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 10/2).

GOLDEN ISLE: On Long Island, Neil Best noted former Gold Medal-winning U.S. hockey player A.J. Mleczko will "join MSG Networks as a studio analyst for select Islanders games this season." She will "work approximately 20 games" this season, and will "debut at the Islanders' home opener on Saturday against the Predators." Mleczko has "worked as an NBC analyst" since '06 (NEWSDAY, 10/3).

MORE LOCAL PROGRAMMING: Disney Streaming Services is "promoting new and enhanced features" of OTT subscription package NHL.TV, which will add nearly 50% "more local broadcast pre- and postgame shows, as well as the intermission shows, for live games." The programming comes from RSNs that NHL.TV "previously didn't carry." NHL.TV "offers more than 1,500 out-of-market games in the base tier of the service, subject to local blackout." Disney plans to "cross-promote NHL.TV to customers of ESPN+" (VARIETY.com, 10/1).

The NHL enters the ’18-19 season with five brands as “global partners,” while another 14 brands are partners across North America. The league has six U.S.-only partners and eight Canada-only partners as well. Coming into the first full season as a North American partner is Jagermeister, which agreed to a deal last month to become the league’s official liquor shot. Honda also extended its North American deal with the NHL last month. The automaker will sponsor the All-Star Game for the fifth consecutive year. NHL corporate partnership benefits vary from deal to deal, but they typically include category exclusivity, use of league marks for ads and promo purposes, event signage, media exposure through radio, print and TV ads, as well as various hospitality benefits. The group below does not include media partners.

BRAND
CATEGORY
GLOBAL PARTNERS
ORG Packaging
Industrial metal packaging products
EA Sports
Video game
Adidas
Outfitter
Apple
Mobile phone, tablet, computer, connected watch/smart watch
SAP
Cloud software
NORTH AMERICAN PARTNERS
Bridgestone
Tires
Chemours
Refrigerant
Enterprise
Rent-a-Car
Federal Mogul
Wiper Blades, oil filters, spark plugs
Honda
Vehicle
Kraft Heinz
Food
Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority
Home of NHL Awards Show
MillerCoors/Molson Coors
Beer
PepsiCo
Soft drink, energy drink, water, snack
PPG Paints
Paint
SiriusXM
Satellite radio
Starwood Hotels
Hotel
Ticketmaster
Primary ticket solutions
Upper Deck
Trading card
U.S.-ONLY PARTNERS
Discover
Credit card
Dunkin' Donuts
Coffee, tea, iced cappuccino, breakfast, donut
Cigna
Health insurance
GEICO
Automotive insurance
Jagermeister
Liquor shot
New Amsterdam Vodka
Vodka
CANADA-ONLY PARTNERS
Canadian Tire
Home improvement retailer
Danone (Oikos)
Yogurt
Hershey's
Confections
Mitsubishi Electric
Heating, ventilation, AC, HVAC, hand dryers
Rogers
Telecom
Scotiabank
Bank, financial services, affinity card, credit card
Tim Hortons
Coffee, tea, iced cappuccino, breakfast, donut
Visa
Credit card
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NHL Sponsors