By Allan Muir
A leaked document reveals that the NHL plans to add at least $1 billion to the Hockey Related Revenue pot over the next three seasons. And the league is counting on international games to get the cash registers ringing.
An article by Chris Botta in today's SportsBusiness Journal has the details of the league memo, which touches on the usual stuff (expanded presence in media, licensing and sponsorship opportunities) and a new Canadian TV deal that will kick in next season. It also mentions the NHL's "big event" strategy in a way that suggests this season's six-game slate of outdoor contests might not be a one-off after all.
But here's the fun stuff: "An increased presence in Europe, with more regular-season NHL games overseas, the return of the World Cup of Hockey -- which, in 1996 and 2004, featured eight top national teams in a tournament in August — and plans for a Champions Cup competition between top European and NHL clubs."
Got all that?
While added regular season games in Europe might not generate as much enthusiasm/cash as the league hopes, bringing the World Cup back now makes perfect sense. There's almost no chance that the league will shut down for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, so the timing is right for the return of a best-on-best event that can be held prior to the start of the regular season every two or four years. And with the NHL and NHLPA controlling the tournament, there are fewer cooks in the kitchen and they get to cash all the checks.
But the really big news there is the Champions Cup concept that would, presumably, borrow heavily from soccer's UEFA Champions League and pit the top club teams from around the world against each other in a tournament format for bragging rights (and maybe the Victoria Cup).
That's a risky move for the league -- there's a real chance that it could end up with egg on its face if the NHL's top teams stumble -- but it is also the sort of bold initiative that excites fans and has the potential to keep the game in the front of the public's mind when it might not otherwise be. This is good stuff. Let's just hope they can get the sponsorship and licensing deals done to make it all a reality.