Once upon a time there was a professional sports league that was on the rise and could potentially challenge the NFL and MLB in popularity. It was the early 90’s and some teams has such a public demand for their playoff tickets and watching their games on TV, that they actually implemented a “pay per view” model! Times were good for this league, indeed.
Then they started changing the fundamental way the game way played. You see, this game did some things that the mainstream thought of as taboo – like fighting. So, in an attempt to make EVERYONE like them, they tried to get rid of it.
Then the players went on strike and the league was gone for almost two years.
When they came back, they did a lot of good things to get the fans back in the seats. But all of that stuff is gone now and the league has gone back to being out of sight and out of mind.
The NHL has lost their way. Sure, the strike hurt – but other leagues have managed to rebound from those dark times. The real problem is that the NHL got greedy and changed how they did business. They got a taste of glory and thought they could get more by appealing to the mainstream. This didn’t work for Hockey and it usually doesn’t work for any brand.
Fighting was part of the NHL’s DNA. Fighting was part of the game. Instead of giving in to the activist groups and the big network advertisers and curtailing the fighting, the NHL should have educated the fringe fans on why fighting is part of the game and how it is part of the league’s long history.
They didn’t do that. They went for the BIG bucks and national TV deals. Now they find themselves on third tier network delivering ratings that are less than professional bowling!
Stick to your core identity. It’s the only thing that works.