In February of 2014 the world was tuned into the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, and Americans specifically were cheering in the streets after T.J Oshie netted a shootout goal that defeated Team Russia. The international competition not only sparked viewers interest for the rest of the NHL season, it also helped sparked interest in the sport itself. This “hockey euphoria” can be attributed to the 2014 Sochi games, and this craze will absolutely be captured again in 2016 when the World Cup of Hockey returns after a 12-year hiatus.
In 2012, the NHL experienced a lockout for the first half of the season, when the action returned in the first half of 2013, viewership spiked. Despite this, ratings were still not as high in previous years since a full season had not been played. With the Olympics in 2014, viewership increased in 3 of the 4 major regions in the United States. Even with this success, the NHL and NHLPA have realized that international competition has not yet reached its full potential.
During the Olympics, hockey is simply a small part of a large international event and although it is a much-anticipated event, it is not the main event. The NHL and NHLPA realized this, and wanted an event similar to the FIFA World Cup that occurs every four years, thus the World Cup of Hockey was revived, and it is set up to be one of the most successful international sporting events in recent memory. This version of the World Cup will feature teams from six countries: Canada, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic, and the U.S, and will also feature two unique teams: Team North America and Team Europe. Team North America will consist of young stars from North America under the age of 23, while Team Europe will consist of the best European players from countries not included in the competition.
Although this is competition is referred to as the “World Cup” all signs point to this being an event marketed towards North American viewers. For starters, the U.S and Canada will be playing in the same group, meaning they will meet in the preliminary round. Also, the addition of the “young guns” squad is certainly an attempt to reach younger generations. Fans will also appreciate the effort that the NHL and NHLPA are putting into the event, as they are seeking $8 million in funding for jersey advertisements.
An event like this may become an every four-year thing like the FIFA World Cup, and it has the potential to boost hockey in North America like never before.
This blog post was written by Samford University student Alex Mimnaugh. You can learn more about Alex at https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=AAIAABb4Z3IBD_fX0khr7QBwj50hZePuZQGJ5PU&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile
“Olympics: Record TV Ratings for Epic U.S.-Russia Hockey Game.” – San Jose Mercury News. N.p., 17 Feb. 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
NHL, NHLPA Reportedly Seeking $8M For On-Jersey Ads At World Cup Of Hockey. Sports Business Daily, 14 July 2015. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
SBRnet. Ice Hockey-NHL TV Viewing: % by Geographic Region
SBRnet. Ice Hockey- Participation by Gender (% of Part.)