I watched this piece on Avery last night and it was intriguing. I'm not going to get into the whole intern, interest in ladies fashion, people thinking he's gay, bush league antics thing. That part that got me was when he was talking about Bettman and the NHL not marketing the game correctly. We all know he's got the balls to say some outlandish stuff, which this was. But was he right?
He of course is right about Bettman and the NHL, and I commend him for saying it. But what he said is that the essence of the NHL game is the battle of villains and heroes on the ice and that is what should be marketed. To me, this was a brilliant, unexpected idea. For one, I hadn't really thought of marketing "villains" in the NHL. Secondly, it seems he considers himself villain out there. Both are interesting turns.
So do we think that heroes v. villains would sell the NHL to average America? Obviously something different has to be done. The lockout was a league breaker, and the game hasn't been the same since. Bettman's short-sighted vision has inhibited the league's growth. He had no more ambition towards larger viewing appeal than Versus. One has to give the NHL some credit for also tacking themselves onto Sunday NBC, but if you don't have exclusive partnership with just one network, why not try to branch yourself out to more. It used to be you could watch NHL on ESPN during the week, either on ESPN2 or their "Hockey Night", so now we get MAC or Sun Belt college football to fill the space. I think you need to concentrate on possibility of exposure before anything else, but I also think Avery's idea could be plausible. Everyone loves good versus evil.
But will there be enough supply of both? Can you just have some "villains" on a team to make it interesting, or do you need some teams pegged as villanous? You've had the likes of the "Broad Street Bullies" and others previously, but I don't see anything like that now (no offense to our kind Philly fans for calling that team "villanous"). The bloody Avs-Wings rivalry was a great ratings event. So my siding with Avery is that there aren't enough villains right now to keep bigger interest in the NHL. Too many vying for the Lady Byng instead of penalty minute kings. Do you think the NHL trying to squelch fighting has been bad for the game? I do. Bettman and the execs think that parents won't let their kids watch because the rough play is not good as a role model. Well guess what, they're not watching now. The sparkle, the persona of hockey has been toughness that has to go along with the grace, and I think Bettman has robbed some of that essence.
After all, we love the skating skill of our NHL, but we also love our thugs.