We all know the stereotype that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman loves to copy Adam Silver and the NBA’s methods. Well now is his chance to make good use of that copycat mentality. I believe the NHL should hold an annual Summer League that can be nationally televised on ESPN to Americans like the NBA does.
What is the NBA Summer League? It’s a league where young players and prospects travel to Las Vegas for a mini season to compete against other NBA teams young talent. It is held every August and gets quite the attention on sports social media. The Summer League gives opportunities to players that have no or little exposure of basketball’s talent an opportunity to shine.
Here’s a link to a highlight of Jalen Suggs on Instagram’s “House of Highlights”
The Summer League is really fun to watch from my experience, especially when the NBA is in the offseason. Many social media accounts post highlights and stats from the games, so why not try this hockey style? The only film we see of our team’s prospects is through “development camps” which is only seen on team’s websites.
The NHL is obviously the most unpopular of the major four professional leagues in North America. Commissioner Bettman has made a marketing turnaround, bringing the NHL back to ESPN on a seven-year “multiplatform” deal. This allows free accessible hockey news to those with cable in the United States. NBCSN only broadcasted the games and saw an all-time low in viewership (averaging 391K per national game in 2021) in its contracts final year with the NHL. But, your only news source was NHL Network or your local sports broadcasting network.
Many Americans, including myself, admittedly do not know their prospect pools (unless you’re a complete hockey buff). I get slandered by my friends who are majority Canadian because hockey prospects are unknown in my knowledge.
Unlike the NBA where 90% of the draft selections (blind estimate) are from US NCAA Colleges. For example, the famous March Madness allows us to see them in action on ESPN. The NHL’s top picks are from all over the world and finding a channel in the USA to watch minor league hockey is rare. “
So how would this work? All 32 NHL teams create a roster combined of their prospects, young NHL players (3 years minimum NHL XP), and AHL players. They will all travel to a selected location made by the league. They will play a certain amount of games and then the best teams can play in a tournament (formats up to them) to determine who has the best young talent.
Would this grow the NHL? ABSOLUTELY. I’ve received a lot of positive reinforcement on my Tiktok and Instagram regarding this idea. I want the NHL to make it a reality. You have ESPN, this is a golden opportunity for prospects to showcase their talent to a possibly growing mainstream audience. In general, I don’t want to hear ignorant Americans saying “hockey is a sport?” anymore. American hockey fans should witness the future of hockey, and it should start in the NHL Summer League.
Your move, Bettman.