Okay, so a lot of fans are pissed off about the lockout. But they are still fans of NHL hockey. How do you keep them engaged and interested in your product when there is no show on the ice?
This is not just a question for the league/teams; Media outlets, who traditionally rely on the NHL for content, need to find the right formula as well.
What is being done and what can be done? What is a good starting point?
First, what if progress on the bargaining agreement is only reported on when there is actually significant progress. Fans don't want to know about meetings that are arranged in order to set up other meetings. This just gives the impression of spinning tires; arguably leading to increasing levels of angst.
But if we aren't reporting about empty meeting rooms, what the hell can we talk about that is meaningful? Well, there have been pieces on young players, articles on rule changes or the way the game is officiated and important updates on Hasek flailing around an attempted NHL return. While rehashing Hasek is not exactly riveting, the first two topics open doors to fan opinion sharing and opportunities for their brains to analyse the game they love and the league they follow with devotion. If the NHL announced serious discussions about the legitimacy of the trapezoid or appropriate additions to video review and made a point to communicate a timeline for these types of decisions they would get fans' attention and even distract from the pit of despair that is lockout negotiations.
Next opportunity - actual hockey games. Overseas hockey is not the answer even though it is getting a lot of attention. Unless an NHL roster player goes out with serious injury, updates from these leagues just are not interesting. Players are decentralized and games don't matter to 90% of NHL fans.
- The AHL needs to become way more accessible. There should have been so much more preparation to make this happen as it seems that everyone saw the lockout coming seven years ago. There is such a high concentration of current, former and future NHL players in the AHL right now that it should be getting maximum exposure in every medium that NHL content has vacated.
- The world juniors coverage needs to be unprecedented (of course TSN is all over this like Pierre on Phaneuf)
- Instead of writing "thank you fans" on the ice after the two sides have make-up
semini golf, how about writing "Thank you fans, here is your free NHL vault. Sorry for fucking up" on the nhl.com homepage while the lockout is in full swing.
Another aspect that fans love is following players and team personalities via social media . At least the NHLPA and the league have attempted to keep this activity fairly open and ongoing (well, for sure the players have). Let's see more activity and more conversation going on from NHL individuals we care about. And preferably not 75% "Gary is Satan's spawn" propaganda.
What other ways are there to keep fans engaged in their NHL passion?