A year ago, North American hockey had been all about stern men in suits walking into and out of conference rooms, and equally stern-looking players vanishing to the ice rink associated with Europe.
Yet after the lean times from the NHL lockout, the sport is placed to provide a feast of enjoyment as it looks to regain dropped fans – and reach out to a worldwide audience.
And unlike Major League Baseball, in whose unwillingness to release players played at least some part in the sport’s failure to be accepted for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the NHL offers decided that skating in the rings is better than skating away – top stars such as Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins will travel to Sochi 2014 with a mission each to win gold and promote their brand.
For NHL gamers, winning an Olympic gold medal and having their names engraved on the Stanley Cup will be the big awards this season but for a little league in recovery mode there is much more is at stake.
After last year’s lockout-shortened campaign the NHL is back with a full action-packed 82-game schedule designed to place the league in the sporting limelight.
“One of the most important things to come out of the discussions was 10 years of labour peace and that is allowing us to begin to execute the particular plans we have for developing the game and growing revenues, ” John Collins, the particular NHL’s chief operating officer, said.
“We’ve added a lot of blue nick partners on the broadcast as well as the sponsorship side, who stated they like where the video game is and like exactly where it’s going and want to spend cash promoting and activating about hockey. ”
Makeover designed for 2013-14
A fresh start offers meant a new look – including an unconventional outdoor game in sunny La – and the NHL offers given itself a makeover for 2013-14, moving from the old six-division format in order to four, with the top three in each plus two wild cards in every conference making the playoffs.
The curtain goes up on Tuesday using a classic Original Six matchup in Montreal with the Canadiens facing off against the Toronto Maple Leafs while the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks meet the Washington Capitals and the Winnipeg Jets take on the Edmonton Oilers.
Yet there will be plenty of other dates circled on the hockey fans’ calendars, the biggest being the particular outdoor Winter Classic which is expected to attract an NHL record crowd of 110, 000 on New Year’s day at Michigan Stadium.
The Winter Classic began as a one-off novelty tribute to hockey’s outdoor origins but has quickly developed into a marketing colossus.
Capitalising on that appeal, the NHL offers scheduled six outdoor video games.
The outdoor action begins in Of detroit on New Year’s Time with the Winter Classic between Red Wings and Maple Leafs, and ends with all the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators in the Heritage Classic at BC Place, the particular venue used for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Between, the NHL will stage a four-game Stadium Series with contests at Joker Stadium in Los Angeles, Jewellry Field in Chicago and two games at New York City’s Yankee Stadium.
The most important hockey event of the year, however , will take place in Sochi, the amazing Black Sea resort that will host the 2014 Wintertime Games.
“Obviously the Olympics presents a distinctive opportunity. The fact that we have the best players in the world playing upon that stage and we want to create as much momentum even as we can going into the Olympics and as much as we can coming out as we possibly can, inch said Collins.
“That’s why we bookended the Olympics with video games at Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium on the front end and Soldier Field and BC Place on the back end. inch
After tense negotiations with the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation, the particular NHL has decided to remain part of the Olympic programme and can use the Sochi Games to market its players and little league.
Hockey’s biggest names will be back to the Olympic ice from Feb 9-25 with Pittsburgh captain Crosby set to lead Canada’s gold medal defence against a Russia team which has made standing on top of the Sochi podium a top priority.
But the chase for the silver Stanley Cup would be the main target for all thirty NHL teams, particularly those based in hockey-obsessed Canada.
Not since Montreal famous the last of their 24 Stanley Cups in 1993 has got the treasured trophy been paraded through the streets of a Canadian city and the country is determined to see hockey’s ‘Holy Grail’ return to its spiritual house.
Nowhere are usually expectations higher than in Toronto where the Maple Leafs will try to end the NHL’s greatest active Stanley Cup drought.
The Leafs, the only NHL franchise to become worth $1billion, have been an enormous success everywhere but to the ice.
It has been 45 years since the Leafs last sipped from the gold mug and fans, just who pay the NHL’s top ticket prices, are demanding more for their money.