Is This the Year? Thinking About NHL Marketing

I was shoveling the driveway today and it gave me a lot of time to think. Way much more time than I would have liked. I need a snowblower for days like this.

Anyway…

One of the things I was thinking about was the NHL’s latest marketing campaign. I complain about the way the league markets itself quite a bit but it’s harder to do that with their “Is This the Year?” commercial.

After the lockout I complained that EA and Molson had better “hockey’s back” commercials than the NHL itself did. Now, the league has finally done something right.

The “Is This the Year?” idea is a great one. Playing on the fact that anytime you watch a game, it’s history in the making. Any night you could turn on the TV and see something that’s never happened before.

That’s not hyperbole, it’s fact. How many people tuned into the Detroit – Columbus matchup on November 24th and saw the fastest two goals ever scored by the Red Wings? That’s a small thing but it validates the point the commercial makes.

But while I love the idea, the execution has three flaws that I consider fatal.

The commercial opens with Ryan Miller asking “Is this the year the Cup comes to Buffalo?” Eric Staal and Sidney Crosby add “To Carolina?” “To Pittsburgh?”

I understand that the players the commerical uses – Miller, Staal, Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier and Alexander Ovechkin – are the ones that the league wants to promote, but to include Carolina and Pittsburgh in that question is slightly ridiculous. Carolina won the Cup just two years ago and Pittsburgh won twice in the 1990s.

Would it have been so difficult to have Anze Kopitar ask “To Los Angeles?” with Marian Gaborik adding “To Minnesota?” It’s not hard to find teams that haven’t won the Cup that also have stars that can be used to promote the game.

One of the greatest lines in the commercial has Eric Staal asking “Is this the year we finally figure out who’s dad’s favorite?” If you know who he is and that he is one of three brothers in the NHL (with another on the way), that’s an excellent bit. The problem is that casual fans won’t know that. Would it have been so tough to add a two-second establishing shot of Eric and Jordan (and Marc, even, though the league probably doesn’t care about him as much) with their backs to the camera and nameplates visible, establishing their names?

Finally, with the commercial closing as the players all repeat the line of “Is this the year?” I love that Ovechkin’s line is in Russian. That said, would it have been so hard to include a Swede, a Czech, or any other nationality in to truely showcase the NHL’s international flavor? If you worked in Kopitar in the opening, he’s available to represent Slovenia. Gaborik could represent Slovakia. The homer Red Wings fan in me says Henrik Zetterberg could be the token Swede.

In all, I’ll admit that they’re small nit-picks. The NHL took a great leap forward here, considering their previous advertising attempts. I’m happy to see that they are trying to improve and hope that they can keep it up.

Red Wings Kick Off Road Trip with Win

The Detroit Red Wings started their four-game western road trip with a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings Monday night. The win extended their unbeaten streak against the Kings to 12 games.

Detroit netminder Chris Osgood, making his first appearance of the season, made 22 saves on 23 shots to earn the victory.

Los Angeles scored the game’s first goal on a miscue by Osgood. Handcuffed on a shot by Aaron Miller, Osgood let the rebound fall to the top of the crease. Former Red Wing Sean Avery and rookie Anze Kopitar rushed in to put it past the sprawling Detroit goalie with only 45 seconds remaining in the first period.

The Red Wings evened the score midway through the second with Jason Williams off for hooking.

Johan Franzen and Kris Draper carried the puck to the Kings’ blue line on a two-on-two when LA defenseman Rob Blake left Draper to put a big hit on Franzen. Franzen held the puck just long enough to get it to Draper, who skated in all alone to beat Kings netminder Dan Cloutier.

Just 1:37 into the third, a power play goal gave Detroit the lead. With Robert Lang controlling the puck at a bad angle to his right, Cloutier tried to cheat to the middle, but Lang threaded the puck just inside the post for his first of the season.

Lang scored again with 3:58 remaining in the game, locking up the Detroit win.

The Red Wings finished the night 1-for-5 on the power play and killed all eight of the Kings’ chances with the man-advantage.

Cloutier stopped 24 of Detroit’s 27 shots.

Detroit will be back in action on Wednesday when they visit the Anaheim Ducks.


The Red Wings haven’t lost to Los Angeles since October 12, 2002.