The NHL isn't holding their Premiere series next season. The popular start to the season obviously got scrapped this year with the lockout, and it'll be scrapped for the time being. Why? Because the league doesn't want it to just be a novelty outreach to the European markets. Instead, it wants a more permanent outreach.
This makes sense; the NHL has more European players than any league other than maybe Major League Soccer. Major League Baseball focuses on their richest non-American market, the Caribbean and Latin American countries, all of the time. While moving the Expos to Puerto Rico for a season is debatable marketing, it still showed baseball's ability to know where the money comes from -- and where a lot of good players come from.
It stands to reason that the NHL would want to emulate MLB's tactics. The European leagues and KHL, while extremely popular, still don't have NHL caliber talent. Ideas for European expansion are out there and are being kicked around by the league; this is great for their business model in the future. By future, obviously, I don't mean in the next five years. Maybe 10 would be a good target. Why? The league has problems in its own backyard.
Hockey in northern America is a no brainer. You barely have to market the NHL in places like Boston, Buffalo, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Philly... basically any place north of the Mason-Dixon line. The league has a lot of teams south of that line though, and they need fixin'. Most of them individually operate just fine, but there are a few that are hell-bound and determined to cost the league money, whether now or in the future. Teams like Tampa Bay, Florida, and Carolina haven't been successful in quite a few seasons. Atlanta was just re-located thanks to terrible ownership and average, at best, on-ice performance. Phoenix is a gong show. Columbus should benefit from relocation to the Eastern Conference next year, but it's certainly not the league's best product (at least not until this season) thanks to talent and a front office who should not have been running the team.
The NHL needs to encourage the betterment of its American product before expanding into Europe. It needs to make sure that the league is financially stable enough to not have to deal with work stoppages and relocations more often than any other professional sports league. While the Premier Series is a fun novelty, and while having some epic Champions League would make the league a ton of money (and would be fun) while drumming up good press, it would make the league more viable in the future to clean up shop at home.
That way, while people are oohing and aahing over the league playing in Europe, they won't have to bring up problems in America to damper the fun. Let the European play be what it should be -- icing on the cake -- but bake the cake first.
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