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Bettman: “Work stoppages aren’t good for any of us”

Nov 3, 2011, 9:02 PM EDT

Gary Bettman AP

With the NHL season in full swing and the NBA lockout creating a void for sports fans, there are plenty of people who think the NHL should see a bump in ratings and revenue. The common sentiment is that there’s an opportunity for NHL teams (and the league as a whole) to convert some basketball fans and show them what they’re missing with hockey.

Today, commissioner Gary Bettman talked to Helene Elliott of the LA Times about the NBA lockout and the “opportunity” it presents for the NHL. “Work stoppages aren’t good for any of us,” Bettman told Elliott. “And I get asked a lot about how we’re ‘taking advantage of an opportunity.’ The truth is, you can’t make an elaborate plan when you never know how long a work stoppage is going to last.”

For more, you should really read Elliott’s entire article that appeared on There’s some great stuff about the Southern California teams marketing decisions while the Lakers and Clippers sit on the sidelines. If you read one thing tonight (well, aside Pro Hockey Talk), this is it.

It’s a question that deserves attention: what should the league do with this incredibly opportunity. For the next few months, the league has weekdays all to themselves on around the sports landscape. While the NFL and college football will continue to get the majority of eyeballs on the weekends, the void left by the NBA lockout leaves the NHL with an extraordinary opening. But how can they cash in?

It’s hard to formulate a long-term plan since the NBA lockout could end any day, right?

Let’s throw this out to the readers. What do you think the league (and teams) should do while the NBA owners lockout their players? Should teams do things differently in order to capture the average sports fan or should they continue with business as usual at let the sport sell itself? After all, it’s a pretty good one.

Let us know what you think in the comments. It seems like everyone has an opinion on this one—we want to hear what you have!

  1. eli2tyree4 - Nov 3, 2011 at 9:54 PM

    Think they will feel benefit only if NBA still has lockout after football season ends. For now many are football 24/7 and football still dominates back pages. Hockey could see jump if NBA misses full season though

  2. gbiscottagecheesefatties - Nov 3, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    we all saw the lockout coming for the NBA. I was really hoping that the NHL and ESPN could get over their feud or whatever you want to call it and bring back hockey night to the states! I know, I know that’s not going to happen for a long time but my fingers were crossed that this summer I would read how ESPN will broadcast hockey on Tuesday nights from 6-midnight………….. What the NHL needs to do now is take care of their own business and not worry about the NBA right now. They should be trying to market their sport better than they are. I feel as if the NHL has put all their eggs in on Crosby but they should be pushing every teams Captain or most “electric” player down that local markets throat…. Advertise people, it will help the sport grow! Put up posters / banners / billboards, anything… This is the best game in the world (also NFL)… market the $hit out of it. If I didn’t live in MN, Canada, Chicago, Detroit, (all teams upper east coast), and a few other city’s, I’d swear you would never see or hear anything about hockey… I have to imagine in local sport talk radio stations in Florida, Arizona, Dallas (what was Atlanta) other warm climates, barely hear about their teams…. I don’t have the answers but make the sport as fan friendly as it can get. Reach out to your fans, fans will talk to co-workers, family, friends, their dog,… more will join in due time!

  3. hockeyfan9170 - Nov 3, 2011 at 10:40 PM

    NBC is doing more for the NHL than ESPN ever did in their years of coverage. They show up up to 4 games a week with pre/post game show and a one hour highlight show. Unless you’re name is Brett Favre, Lebron James, or Tim Tebow you’re time on ESPN is minimal.

    • gbiscottagecheesefatties - Nov 3, 2011 at 11:24 PM

      I agree with everything you said.. I’m just hoping the NHL get’s more coverage than they do. The bonus with having a night of hockey on ESPN would be the extra coverage on sportscenter every night.

  4. rainyday56 - Nov 4, 2011 at 3:28 AM

    A tossed banana and an unfortunate halloween costume went a long way to capture the attention to a key NBA demographic. I still believe these events were manufactured and the hockey media were complicit in their coverage of these events.

  5. nhlbruins90 - Nov 4, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    There’s less cross-over between hockey and basketball fans than with the other sports. For one thing, their seasons overlap and people traditionally follow either one or the other. Also, Celtics and Bruins fans are two different groups. The former have always been the trendier, yuppie types while B’s fans have historically been more blue collar. Not poorer, just different types. (do you know what plumbers, cops, toll-takers make? … more than cubicle zombies in shirts and ties, and as much as typical lawyers these days)

    While Sox fans are certainly an upscale, trendy crowd, there’s plenty of cross-over hockey fans. Hockey season ends, baseball begins. Both teams have a long tradition in the city. The Winter Classic at Fenway was the perfect blend of two great traditions. Everybody loves football, it’s the national sport.

    For fans who miss the Celtics, I just don’t see them turning to the B’s to fill the void. If the NHL went away, I’d have no interest in the NBA. I think I’m typical. There are lots of other diversions these days.

    NBC does a great job putting hockey out there, and I’m glad to see the college games coming on Friday nights. Exposing the college game to a broader audience is a much better way to market the NHL. The Winter Classic, day after Thanksgiving game on NBC (a longtime B’s tradition) and the Stanley Cup finals are where you capture casual fans and convert them to steady fans. Also, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the All-Star Draft show. I watched it with my niece and we were genuinely entertained.

    The 2011 Stanley Cup final didn’t pull record numbers (with only one American team) because of an NBA lockout. They delivered compelling entertainment that was better than what the NBA, MLB and even the massive hype of the Superbowl delivered.

  6. scrumpyfu - Nov 4, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    Ah, commish Bettman – still a man without a plan. When can we get *him* locked out?

    The sports/leagues aren’t 1:1 so trying to up-market NHL games right now would be – like expansion – a waste of time and money. Hockey’s never going to be that huge in the U.S. and that should be just fine. It still gets decent coverage and retains its smaller but loyal and devoted fan base despite not pulling in the money/ratings of the other major leagues.

    Despite what that idiot Bettman thinks hockey’s just going to stay that way – and that’s not a mark against it at all.

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