Friday, September 28, 2007

Hockey Night in England

Hmmm, apparently Dan Cloutier did make the trip.

I'm fascinated by the fact the NHL season will open in a place where everyone's completely indifferent to the games (other than Arizona, I mean), something that seems so fitting for a league always chasing fans that want nothing to do with it.

One of my pals from journalism school, Josh Wingrove, is in London working for CBC News, and I've been pestering him for some tidbits relating to what's going on over there. Apparently he's got lots of real "work" to do, but here's a look:

First up, The Guardian ran an amusing beginner's guide to the NHL today that you can see online here. "The NHL, what's that then?" reads the very British subhead, and the piece is so riddled with errors I'm not sure where to begin (date of the lockout's wrong, salary cap figure's incorrect, etc.).

They do seem to like the Stanley Cup, however:
The Stanley what now?
The Stanley Cup
. This is the trophy all the teams in the NHL play for. This, really, is the star of the league. At a quarter-inch below three feet tall and weighing almost two and a half stone, 'The Cup' has engraved on its frame the name of every team, every player and every coach that has ever won it, from the now defunct Montreal Victorias (1895) to this year's champions, the Anaheim Ducks. Truly a thing of beauty, the Stanley Cup is the Holy Grail of North American professional sports.
Josh, a good Edmonton boy, also says Gary Bettman's been front and centre of the press "barrage" this week, doing radio interviews and BBC appearances. Of course, it'd be better to get one of the more articulate players for this sort of thing, but, well, that's not what's happening...

The press has been calling it "American hockey," apparently a similar usage to "American football," which has a far bigger following in England. The BBC reporter's lead question for Bettman was "Why are you here?"

To which Bettman said something along the lines of "I think there's a great appetite for our game here.

"We didn't do any advertising of promotion, and the two games were sold out in two weeks. We know that there's a great interest in our game throughout the world."

Bettman was also asked about the NBA and NFL: "I'm not worried about the other guys. We are the most international of the North American sports, as I've said, one-third of our players are international. This is truly the world's game."

The author of the previously mentioned beginner's guide also has a blog going on the games:
The coming weekend sees British and European fans given the chance to see one of the greatest live sports, played live. They will see the majestic, three-foot tall Stanley Cup - won last year by the Ducks, beating the Ottawa Senators in five games - presented prior to the game. They will see true sporting superstars, players such as the Ducks' 'rugged' (translation: borderline psychopathic) defenseman Chris Pronger and forwards Rob Niedermeyer and Todd Bertuzzi.
Other than that, there has been very little coverage, Josh says, and you really have to search around for reports from local media outlets.

If anyone else has links or information from London, please feel free to post them in the comments or send me an email.

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7 Comments:

At 2:03 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger BlackCapricorn said...

Maybe if this was being played in Germany, or Czech or any of the northern countries (i.e., any place OTHER THAN England), this would have a shot.

 
At 2:13 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Baroque said...

Europe is pretty small, as continents go. I wonder how many of the attendees are travelling from other European countries such as Sweden, Czech Republic, etc. to see the games?

 
At 3:19 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are you in England?
Because the Anschutz Group owns the arena and when Bettman's not busy keeping Balsillie out of the league and some of his failing sun belt teams out of Canada, he's busy with his head up the rear end of the AEG folks. One of the traditional European hockey countries would make sense, but this is Bettman after all.

 
At 4:08 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny pic - Cloutier ha ha. I tend to favour goalies, but he's one I quite dislike.
There was an interesting interview, I'm pretty sure it was the BBC, with Burke that's also on Vancouver radio/CKNWAM 980 yesterday. It's archived there-http://www.cknw.com/station/club.cfm?pgs=Audio%20Vault%20Page&tg=http://www.cknw.com/station/audiovault_members.cfm&td=0).

 
At 6:55 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Oiler Mag said...

No hockey heritage in Britain? Wasn't Lord Stanley of Preston English? Didn't we win the Olympics in 36? Seriously, Hockey was huge during the eighties and early nineties - it was watched by more spectators than every winter sport except football and rugby. Crowds of 3-4 thousand used to cram into rinks in Durham, Fife, Nottingham, Cardiff, Whitley Bay every week. However, all the rinks were in teams were in small cities and towns many of whom didn't have football teams of note. The British press never really covered it as they are based in London (the rest of the country doesn't really exist). The BBC used to give it decent coverage - especially the Wembley finals weekend. The move to bigger arenas in bigger cities killed this a bit and now the interest has waned. However, the fan base for the NHL is still as big as ever - especially as we can get a live game nearly every night (and well into the morning for Edmonton fans) on NASN. The sell out at the O2 isn't surprising and a regular visit would go down well over here.

 
At 5:48 AM, September 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

James, "Hockey Night in Britain" not "Hockey Night in England" Surely!

I'm traveling down from Edinburgh for the game on Sunday.

 
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