What The NFL Not Playing A Season Could Mean For The NHL
We’ve heard the comments from various talking heads within the NHL community about how losing a league to labor strife isn’t good for anyone in the sporting world, but let’s get real – no league stands to benefit more from the lack of an NFL season than the National Hockey League. Three words – SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAYYYYYYY!!
The most obvious impact of the lack of the NFL is an entirely empty Sunday and Monday from September to January. It would behoove the NHL, who typically take advantage of NFL-less Sundays beginning in January, to schedule a bevy of games every Sunday beginning with opening weekend. The advantages are three fold.
Improved Bidding War
The reports have already come out that the NHL has a myriad of options available to them once the current NBC/Versus deal expires. Chances are NBC/Versus will retain their rights with a hefty new contract due to the possibility of planning Sunday double-headers from the outset. But with the reported interest from ESPN with a rumored megabucks deal in the offering and possible interest from TNT in case the NBA also locks out (it’s slim but it’s a concern), the NHL can maximize their exposure and broadcasting revenue by brokering one insane deal or two or three lucrative deals.
Drastically Improved Visibility
With the NFL and their juggernaut-like strangehold on fall and winter sports out of the picture, the NHL and their surging popularity stand to benefit most from the available media and broadcast attention. Depending of the television deal or deals, the league can put a ton of games on the schedule during football-dominated time slots and capitalize on the increased availability. What immediately springs to mind is the possibility of a Sunday double header followed by a marquee matchup on Monday and Thursday nights. This model would be easiest to execute with NBC/Versus and ESPN deals.
With all these extra scheduling days available right from the start of the season, the NHL’s famously-compressed schedule can loosen up and provide plenty of benefits to the games, players, and fans. An increase of games scheduled on non-traditional times helps spread out the overall congestion of games so that the players aren’t as fatigued and suffer less injuries due to said fatigue. This keeps competition fresh and the level of play higher, providing for an even-better viewing experience. Less man games lost to injury and better viewing experiences would only better the NHL’s image among the top four leagues.
It’s crucial that the NHL play it savvy and maximize their exposure and revenue with blockbuster television deals as soon as NBC/Versus’ expires in the off-season. Provided the NFL remains locked out, hockey could make a huge leap in the 2011/2012 season.