International Week- a Hockey Champions Cup?

Ok I think this week my topics haven't been all that controversial, which may be why the comments have been non-existent this week, however I think all that will change today, as I am sure not everyone will agree with this idea.

Eventually, In order to boost the international profile of the NHL, I think the NHL should set up, and participate in some sort of Club Championship series, similar to the way European soccer has it's Champions League and UEFA Cup. This is a long term goal, mainly because the logistics involved are pretty much a nightmare.

Why? well let's face it the world is getting smaller (figuratively), which means the NHL has an opportunity to broaden it's horizons immensely. Trans-Atlantic transportation takes a mere hours and with the advancement of the internet, the NHL will be able to broadcast games all over the world. There's tremendous fan appeal there, in the same way that kids in England will root for Real Madrid or a Swede can cheer for AC Milan, the potential to gain fans in those countries is ripe. The NHL has the best talent level in the world and it's time to showcase that in Europe once and for all.

So how does one go about implementing this, well as with anything there needs to be an infrastructure. How does one get infrastructure? Barnstorming. The NHL should have the losers of the conference finals do a barnstorming tour of Europe for their preseason the following season. I'm sure some owners will oppose this, because they won't be able to squeeze pennies out of fans for meaningless pre-season games (meaningless to the fans, not the players and coaches). The NHL should also invite the champions of leagues (Swedes, Finish, German, etc) to come here and play some NHL teams in the preseason.

After experimenting with this for a few years to see if it's successful, a champions cup could be played. The top 4 teams in the NHL spend their pre-season playing in a tournament with 4 of the top teams from Europe. This tourney would alternate from N.America and Europe every season.

Like with any international competition it raises the NHL's profile, and generates buzz for doing something creative. People will turn in to see how they do. It will be an experience for the players as well.

If you did an 8-team tourney, 2 4-team divisions, round robin top 4 teams play single elimination for the tourney. First division (Red Wings, Czech #1, Sweden #1, Austria #1) and Second Division (Sabres, Finland #1, Russia #1, Germany #1). Games played in Detroit or Buffalo. It would draw more revenue and hopefully expose the league to a bigger audience. Combine it with the Olympics, world championships, etc and you ave a chance to market these stars not just to NA, but to the entire world. That's good for business.


  1. You are just getting me started's a first take.

    You know how The Dark Ranger feels about the international branding of the NHL, but I do admire how you've thought through this and how the league could implement long-term strategies to reach a much wider-reaching NHL brand, despite how the well established European leagues would be threatened with such plans.

    Short term, I do believe that the NHL would completely dilute it's brand by considering these ideas. There are almost 10 NHL teams (a third of the NHL) currently here in North America that receive almost no branding and attention -- short of fans, losing money and performing at the low end of the salary cap potential. As huge hockey fans, we all know it's not the game -- because we've all brought friends to games and they get hooked! Something is missing that the NHL is not providing, perhaps an equivalent TSN network relationship to Canada that the States cannot match. ESPN is a joke, and we shouldn't revisit that old and tired relationship. Maybe an exclusive USA network, major cable relationship would better the name of hockey.

    The best example is our opening games in England this coming September, where I don't think it benefits the game in general. HOCKEY in Columbus, Carolina, Nashville, Florida, and even Anaheim sound foreign enough in their own town, and a (not!) highly televised Anaheim/Los Angeles season opener in England feels even more foreign to me.

    Anyway...keep up the controversy. I'll be there with you.

    The Dark Ranger

  2. Well Columbus is fine, they actually do get ice there in the winter. I lived there so i know it.

    We'll talk about the NHL's southern expansion some other time, it wasn't the idea i think was bad, but the execution.

    See the thing about this barnstorming tour is, that it introduces the NHL to the foreign market without threatening it. They get to host games every other year when the NHL goes there (or even every year). They draw the gate and TV money as well, plus their team gets to compete against the big boys.

    The NHL gets increased exposure, marketing gimmick, and a worthwhile pre-season. Plus they can negotiate a cut of the gate and/or advertising within the tournament.

    Also the reason it's a lot different than southern expansion is because they would be playing hockey in already hockey-mad places, like Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. This could be these people's only chance at seeing their stars play up close.

    What about a NY Ranger's vs. Detroit pre season (or hell regular season) tilt in Prague. You don't think they could pack 50k of people to watch Jagr play against Hasek? Then send them up to Sweden so the Red Swedes can take on King Henrik?

    Eventually they will learn about the Rangers Red Wings, Avalanche, and then the Blue Jackets, Predators and Panthers (ok that's a stretch). It is not a short term plan, but I eel the league could make itself some good money.

  3. 1) Interesting ideas. We feel the best possible way to get exciteemnt/money out of this kind of arrangement is NOT to have 'exhibition/preseason games played among NHL and Euro squads, but to have all 30 NHL teams play these Euros and have the results count in the NHL standings
    2) This way you're sure to get a nice turn out to see the home town boys play Sweden, etc, but the team won't go at half speed because it could cost a playoff spot come spring. Also owners and management wouldn't be as timid about injuries if this was part of the regular schedule

  4. While I agree with you Faux, (and trust me I have more on this for later in the week) I think the problem for now is that you have to start somewhere. I think long term an idea like that may not be a bad idea, but in the shorter term a pre-season tourney might be the best way to go.

    Also the costs of barnstorming a team of Swedes or whatever around the country, during their season would take quite the toll on the Foreign team, both financially and physically and mentally on that traveling team. It's one thing to go play for 2-3 weeks, another to play all 30 teams.

    Besides that's why you don't make it a pre-season game, but a tournament, which gives them at least a little motivation to play for.

  5. i think it's a great idea -- as long as it's timed properly. Hell, why not make the big tourney right in the middle of summer when everyone is hating baseball? sort of like the world cup, only every year.

  6. It would be nice to be watching some hockey right now

  7. I thought I read a rumor somewhere talking about the SC Champs playing against the Euro champs during the offseason? Did I imagine that?

    I like you're staged "Let's get our feet wet before jumping in" approach. It's a strategy that the NHL never seems to apply at the appropriate times.