Here's a new look:
Canadian franchises are in danger, not because they aren't drawing enough crowds or making enough money. No, Canadian franchises are in danger because the game as a whole is struggling.
When 80% of the league is based in either a non-hockey market (boy have we heard that phrase a lot this summer) or in a struggling economy (sorry neighbors to the south...its still true) then that is 80% of your potential revenue stream that is struggling.
If I were operating my business within a struggling sector I would be fool-hearty at best to stand pat and hope for things to improve. I must make changes and try to adapt to the new economic climate. In my business (Building Consulting) we must seek out new markets, new business models, new revenue streams. This does not happen by accident, nor does it happen through stoic resolve to stand still in the face of gale-force winds of economic change. What is the US contingent of NHL franchises doing to adapt? Ticket Promos? Multi-Sport discounts? Even the NFL is struggling in ad sales. Dramatic, innovative, and perhaps even risky new ventures must be undertaken to create new revenue streams, and there is no (publicly available) evidence that the NHL is on top of this.
The NHL cannot survive with a business model that is so exposed to economic downturn. Get on your game Bettman. Create focus groups, start that HR machine that the NFL, NASCAR, and (dare we say it) the MLB seem to have exploited much better. I have every confidence that the NHL could some day be as popular to the American public (much as you do GB) but it isn't going to happen by stoicism. Get the game in the hands of the fans. Your faithful Canadian fans need the support of the US franchises (although few of us will consider this reality) to stay afloat.
Stay tuned for my next post on how to revolutionize the way fans see the game.
In the meantime, represent your country and become the the hockey GM you always wanted to be: