First off… don’t shoot the messenger. This is solid information I found out, that’s worth telling and talking about. I wouldn’t take the time to write about it, if there was no serious substance behind where it came from, and it is definitely NOT Hockey Insider. That’s my disclaimer… so on to the story.
It’s interesting how sometimes being involved in a couple different business scenes can expose you to credible information about another unrelated business realm. Sometimes searching for information inside the umbrella of where it usually resides, is the place where it’s most protected if they don’t want it getting out yet. I would love to disclose my sources, but the internet has a funny way of getting people in trouble. I will say, this is 100% “in-the-room” level information. I apologize for being so cryptic and secretive on that portion of this story. On the other hand, I’m sure this is information about to be officially in circulation in a big way, very shortly.
Multiple Sources have confirmed, if all stays the course as currently planned, the NHL season will begin with the 1st game as the Winter Classic. They also have confirmed that the league is aiming to work out a 42 game schedule between the start of the season and the playoffs.
Once I came to believe that the lockout actually could and probably would happen, my first inclination was always, “if the Winter Classic doesn’t happen, the season wont happen”. If the NHLPA was brazen enough to hold out past that, the owners would retaliate and say, “Screw you guys. We’ll talk to you again in June.” The first clue to that was the early announcement of its November cancellation deadline. It seemed early to announce, but not if you think of everything and everyone the league would need to cancel on. The notice can’t be a month or less away from an event of that magnitude. There is so much money that surrounds the Winter Classic and so many valuable relationships, relationships that the NHL can’t afford to tarnish, that makes it so much more than a glorified, regular season game. One relationship in particular is paramount over all others… HBO.
The HBO 24/7 Winter Classic series single-handedly acted as a springboard for the NHL and its record breaking growth in fandom. It brought an amazingly well-executed insight on players’ and coaches’ lives, their competitive preparation, and on-the-ice, game-time action. All of which, as a spectator, you have never experienced anywhere else. They present it in a fashion that’s completely professional and effectively builds up massive amounts of suspense for the biggest regular season spectacle, in any professional sport. In addition to the show’s production, the exposure of new eyes to the focus of the NHL is exponentially increased, which makes HBO’s involvement exponentially more valuable to the NHL and every single sponsor involved. That screen real estate becomes more valuable, the price for said screen real estate drastically increases, and the league can effortlessly pack its pockets in a way they never could for a regular season game.
The relationship between HBO and the NHL is symbiotic as well. HBO surely benefits from its loyal viewership, new subscribers, and DVD sales. You can imagine that the involvement of HBO in the Winter Classic benefits the event far more than the event benefits HBO. It’s not good for business to be involved with a league that has the potential to not exist every couple years. The NHL can’t afford to be seen like that or it could potentially shoot itself in the foot with revenue losses.
So this is what I’ve heard as well as my two-cents added in as to why it makes sense to me. I really hate speculation and rumors, but with the Pirates’ humiliating collapse and the Steelers’ weak start to the season, this seems to be the most hopeful thing to talk about. As a fan of hockey, some season is better than none, so I hope this pans out to be true. If not… we’ll all share in the disappointment together (or excitement if it happens earlier).
Regardless… lets talk about it.