Each summer NHL insiders gleefully leave to go to their cottages. The lack of NHL news means that there is no demand for their services. It is a boring time for hardcore hockey fans and leaves a bunch wanting more. Outside of some highlights from development camps, there isn’t much to discuss.
Meanwhile the NBA, which just ended its season, has had a bevy of events that have held people’s attention even though the draft and free agency were already held. As the NBA continues to grow and grow, the NHL needs to follow their lead and become a stronger entity. They could start by copying the NBA Summer League.
Each year the NBA puts on the Summer League in Las Vegas, Nevada with much fanfare. They play in intimate gyms and have young prospects compete against one another by representing the club that drafted them. It doesn’t seem like much, and well, that’s because it isn’t. It is an incredibly simple format that yields big time results for the league. The conversation about basketball continues well into the summer and allows the NBA to stay in everyone’s consciousness. This time of year is mostly reserved for baseball, but who says it has to be?
I would begin by aligning the prospect games by playing a round robin against the teams in your division. For instance, the Penguins prospects would play against everyone in the Metropolitan before the top-three from each division play in a winner-take-all knockout format. It would help build rivalries and storylines while adding something to the league. It varies slightly from what the NBA does, but still keeps the spirit of the competition.
Currently some teams will skate in tournaments like Traverse City and compete against one another. While it is a good idea in practice, they need to spread the game and need to put it on a much wider scale. If they play all of these games in a large international city every year, it is another avenue for them to grab some cash and also spread the game to potentially new audiences.
Imagine Auston Matthews and William Nylander against Alex Nylander in a Leafs vs. Sabres matchup. It brands the players and allows them to cut into a market that otherwise would remain untapped. Not to mention that selling the TV rights for it could make the league oodles of cash.
This would be a first step in branding individuals at the beginning of their careers instead of doing so in their primes. The plan would be mutually beneficial for both sides and shouldn’t add anymore strife to a league that is full of it.
The NHL has a chance to grow the game, but will they take advantage of it?