Since the 1970s, Philadelphia has been a hotbed for NHL hockey. Arguably the most successful of the six expansion teams from 1967, founder Ed Snider and the current ownership group, Comcast-Spectacor, are always looking for new ways to hop into the spotlight.
Having hosted such national hockey events as the Stanley Cup final (2010), the Winter Classic (2012) and the NCAA’s Frozen Four (2014), the organization felt it was a natural move to make a bid to host the NHL draft.
The process started just before the 2012 Winter Classic. Senior director of marketing Joe Heller and his team began an open dialogue with the NHL’s front office and expressed an interest in hosting both the All-Star Game and the draft in upcoming years. Almost immediately, they began bidding against multiple other NHL cities.
“There’s a formal process,” Heller said, “and that includes very specific information about the arena, our capabilities to host the draft, what we would do if we were to land the draft. Could we do a trolley tour with the prospects and take them to some of the signature locations in the city? Where could we have any VIP parties? What about the arena, the marketplace, and what would the market do to embrace the event? We listed preferred hotels, a list of attractions that prospects and families can visit while here, and made it look as attractive as possible for a host city to have this event. There’s some very specific questions, as far as venues you’d recommend, transportation companies and restaurants you’d recommended, how you’d fit out the building, signage throughout the building, and what you would do outside for the fans.”
The answers to all of these questions were easy, given Philadelphia’s standing as a national attraction, for its history, culture, museums, sporting events and more. At the 2012 draft in Pittsburgh, the Flyers were informed they would host the event in 2014.
Over the next two years, the organization worked closely with the NHL to plan out one of the most exciting weekends of the NHL calendar. The organization’s PR staff began working with the city of Philadelphia to arrange events for the prospects, their families, the NHL, and the fans for the two-day event. This included a day with the prospects at the National Constitution Center, a trip to visit the Liberty Bell, an introduction to Philly cheesesteaks, and even a Rocky-themed run up the Philadelphia Art Museum’s famous steps.
All of the work from the last two years comes to a head on Friday, starting with Fan Fest, a massive hockey festival outside the Wells Fargo Center that is expected to draw thousands of fans to the Philadelphia Sports Complex to participate in hockey-themed games, contests, and other educational events sponsored by some of the attractions throughout the city.
“Our whole goal of this was to say, ‘Philadelphia is just a great market for hosting national events,’ ” Heller said. “Between the arena and the way the marketplace embraces events like this, it’s just a natural fit. In Philadelphia, we have the ability to easily showcase nationally recognized landmarks that we have here, and the history of the city. And the support we have from local organizations, it’ll be an awful hands-on approach to hosting this event.”
“For us, it all comes back to a celebration of hockey and a chance to showcase the city.”