October 2, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Chris McCosky

Swedish opener makes no sense for the NHL

Stockholm, Sweden

No offense to the good people here in Stockholm, and certainly no disrespect to Nicklas Lidstrom and the rest of the Swede-Wings, but what the heck is the NHL doing over here?

There is nothing to be gained, from a business standpoint, by playing games abroad -- here or Helsinki or wherever. Yes, I understand the concept of globalization. I know the NBA has managed to tap into another lucrative revenue stream in Europe and Asia.

Globalization works for the NBA because it has an established base in its home market. It has multiple television contracts. Its brand is 1,000 times bigger than the NHL. It's a viable commodity on the global market.

Sweden? What for?

The NHL? Not so much. How can the NHL be thinking global when it is struggling in its main market? There is no chance the NHL is expanding to Europe. There isn't going to be any spike in merchandise sales over here.

Listen, these fans here adore the Swede-Wings, and by extension, they are fans of the Red Wings. But what does that mean to the business of the NHL? Nothing.

The worst thing about starting the season over here is that so few in North America know or even care about it.

Wings goalie Chris Osgood said he got a call from his friend, Lions center Dominic Raiola, on Wednesday and Raiola, a big sports fan, didn't even know the Wings were in Sweden.

This trip hasn't generated any buzz about the start of a new season where it matters most -- in the NHL's primary markets.

A better idea

Here's what the NHL should do instead: At the start of each season, pick a destination city in North America -- Las Vegas, New York, Miami, Toronto, Vancouver, wherever -- and invite the final four teams from the previous year and stage an NHL showcase. Each team gets two regular-season games and you can pair them off any way you want -- East runners-up vs. West runners-up, rematch of the conference championships, whatever.

With a season-opening showcase, the outdoor Winter Classic and the All-Star weekend -- and this year the Olympics, too -- the league would have three premier events, all in destination cities within the base market, to promote its product before the playoffs.

Wouldn't that create more buzz than this?


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