Rarely does Vancouver see HOCKEY excitement in June anymore … but there it was … at the 2019 NHL draft: fans turned up in person or tuned in on television by the thousands to watch young athletes get their chance to become major stars … and multi-millionaires.
It was great for Vancouver, as hosts, too: estimates are the draft contributed between $8 million to $10 million to the local economy.
And remember, the NHL is as much a business as a sports body … maybe more.
So with that in mind … let’s keep it real: the NUMBERS … for the NHL in Canada … are a disaster these days during the Playoffs.
The Hockey News reported that, after all the Canadian teams were eliminated, the TV ratings over the first five days of the Playoffs in April averaged only 513,000 viewers!
That was DOWN 61% from the previous year.
Holy Hockey, Puckman!
For hockey playoffs! Viewed in Canada! That’s dismal!
You can read the whole, alarming details by writer Ken Campbell yourself: https://thehockeynews.com/news/article/playoff-tv-ratings-down-a-shocking-61-percent-in-canada.
Others are also sounding the alarm.
“With no Canadian teams left and light on star power, a cooking show in Canada is drawing bigger numbers than this year’s NHL playoffs,” reported Macleans Magazine in May.
“After nearly three decades of American teams winning the Cup, things are so dire that 62 per cent of Canadian hockey fans said they’d support any Canadian team to win Lord Stanley’s Cup, once theirs was eliminated, according to a recent Angus Reid Institute poll” wrote Aaron Hutchins.
And I put it to you that, with Canada’s changing demographics, with so much more competition for viewers’ attention … and without MAJOR changes to the NHL Playoffs system … hockey will continue its downward spiral in Canada.
“For comparison, the NHL’s demographics are 92% white and 64% of their fans are over 35. These stats are not encouraging for a league that is struggling to diversify and reach viewership ratings in Canada, of all places,” noted Montreal Blogger Teddy Elliot in May.
He was right on: https://www.mtlblog.com/news/canada/basketball-is-officially-overtaking-hockey-as-canadas-favourite-sport.
And the NHL brass and owners are to blame.
The NHL is becoming an American league, with mostly American teams, American owners, an American Commissioner … all of which seem to me to cater to American TV viewers to attract American bucks.
And Canada is less and less relevant.
As a BUSINESS, we’re now seeing HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in lost advertising/sponsorship/local business/tourism revenues and opportunities in Canada …. impacting not only our national pride, our historical attachment to the sport, hockey as an integral part of our culture, and also an important component in Canadian jobs, especially in arenas, restaurants, bars, tourism, broadcasting.
But there’s actually a fairly easy solution.
In fact, I was ahead of my time: I noticed the declining interest in Canada and recommended Playoffs-saving changes THREE years ago… http://harveyoberfeld.ca/blog/nhl-needs-a-playoff-system-that-includes-canada/.
The NHL’s teams are already divided into several league/division categories. Yet, with skillful scheduling, fans all over North America get to see a very wide variety of teams from outside their own local conference or division.
And some of those games draw the highest interest and ratings … both in fan attendance and TV ratings.
To save the NHL in Canada … long-term … the League MUST adopt a new playoff system to ensure that, in the FINALS, the TOP American NHL team each season will face the TOP Canadian NHL team!
That’s what hockey fans throughout North America really want to see!
Yet, with so many more American teams in the NHL these days, Canada has been pushed further and further out of contention.
As I wrote in 2016, the problem would … and has … continued to get even worse and I’ll say it again: the NHL Playoffs system MUST be changed.
What greater proof do we need of that than the recent EXCITING nation-wide support and TV RATINGS of the Toronto Raptors.
An amazing 15.9 MILLION Canadians reportedly watched some or all of the Toronto/Oakland NBA series … including 7.7 MILLION Canadians who watched the final game and 10 MILLION Canadians who were tuned in for the last 10 minutes of the game
And it’s a lot easier and cheaper for parents and aspiring young sports fans to take up and get involved in basketball as a winter sport than hockey.
The NHL brass, owners, sponsors in Canada had better wake up and change their Playoffs system to ensure a Canadian/US matchup … right through the Finals.
Before hockey becomes just another Canadian export.
(Reminder: You can get First Alerts of all new postings on this BC-based Blog by following @harveyoberfeld on Twitter. No spam … just First Alerts of new postings of interest Canada-wide.)