Under the watchful eye of chief operating officer John Collins, the NHL has become the most event-driven league among major sports. From the Winter Classic to the All-Star Game fantasy draft to the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, Collins has positioned the NHL as an industry leader when it comes to staging glitzy, revenue-generating spectacles. It has helped build the league into an almost $4 billion business.
So why not make the trade deadline an event? It’s already one of the most highly anticipated days on the NHL calendar, so the league might as well cash in on it and make it even more compelling for fans at the same time. The league could sell a sponsorship deal and auction the television rights to the highest bidder. NHL Trade Deadline Day, brought to you by (insert sponsor’s name here) televised exclusively on (insert network’s name here). It could be much the same as baseball’s winter meetings but on a grander scale.
Here’s how it could work. The first thing the league would have to do is place moratorium on any trades in the two weeks leading up to the deadline. That way you don’t have deals coming in piecemeal prior to the big day the way they do now. Then you would get the hockey departments all together in the same place – preferably in a warm climate – in a draft-like setting with each team having its own table and a phone to communicate with one another.
Then you sit back and watch the flurry of deals unfold before your very eyes. As each deal is made and approved by the NHL’s Central Registry Department, which would also be on site, commissioner Gary Bettman goes to the podium and announces each one. There would preferably be no NHL games scheduled for that day and all the pending unrestricted free agents whose names have been bandied about could also be on hand to meet their new team and provide media reaction on the deal.
The event would attract members of every media outlet that covers hockey. Player agents would make the trip, every hockey person imaginable would be there and that event would be the sole focal point of the hockey world for that day. Imagine how great it would be to actually watch the machinations of the Arizona Coyotes as they sift through all the offers for Antoine Vermette before making the best deal. Vermette would be there himself to model his new team’s sweater and conduct interviews on his feelings about the deal.
Having all hockey’s power brokers in the same room at the same time would probably encourage more dealing to be done, too. Teams that went to the event thinking they were prepared to stand pat might all of a sudden find themselves in the running for a player they might not have known was available.
In fact, the league could even extend the concept to free agency. Since everyone is already in place for the draft, the league could simply keep them there and go directly into the first day of free agency a day or two later, and again conduct the event as a made-for-television spectacle with the pending free agents on hand.
Someone once said trade rumors and deals are to hockey what statistics are to baseball. Fans love this stuff and would be enthusiastically on board with this.
And in a league that is all about growing revenues, here’s a great way to do that and add some drama and sizzle to a day that’s all about hype, hope and wheeling and dealing.