Big events have NHL seeing gold, silver and cash

Fri Sep 27, 2013 4:15pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - With the Sochi Olympics, the biggest Winter Classic and a new Stadium Series, the National Hockey League (NHL) launches its most ambitious season since expansion on Tuesday looking to regain lost momentum and fans.

For NHL players, winning an Olympic gold medal and having their names engraved on the Stanley Cup will be the big prizes this season but for a league in recovery mode there is much more is at stake.

After last year's lockout-shortened campaign the NHL is back with a full action-packed 82-game schedule designed to put the league in the sporting spotlight and keep it there with a daring lineup of glossy events.

"One of the most important things to come out of the negotiations was 10 years of labor peace and that is allowing us to begin to execute the plans we have for growing the game and growing revenues," John Collins, the NHL's chief operating officer, told Reuters.

"We've added a lot of blue chip partners on the broadcast and the sponsorship side, who said they like where the game is and like where it's going and want to spend money promoting and activating around hockey.

"They need events like the Winter Classic and Stadium Series to do that."

From the great Olympic stage to an unconventional outdoor game in sunny Los Angeles, the NHL appears determined to leave no marketing stone unturned in an effort to rebuild its brand and repair the damage done by a bitter labor dispute.

A fresh start deserves a new look and the NHL has given itself a makeover for 2013-14, moving from the old six-division format to four (Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific) with the top three in each plus two wild cards in each conference making the playoffs.   Continued...

Los Angeles Kings' Drew Doughty (L-R), Jeff Carter, and Anaheim Ducks Dustin Penner chat after a news conference at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, California, September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson