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Ducks Fly Together: Corporate Sponsorship and a Night with the NHL

January 8th, 2007 | 1 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Continuing the sports theme of this weekend, the wife treated me to my first ever NHL game tonight. And by fluke, it just happened to be a clash between two of the better teams in the NHL, the Ducks and Red Wings.

I won't labor you with the details (Dominic Hasek was surprisingly mediocre, etc.). Hockey is an extraordinarily fun sport to watch in person. NHL players are fast--really fast--and it seems they can do anything with a stick and puck. The game had numerous "wow" moments, and even kept my non-sports inclined wife in rapt attention (and the Ducks won, which was tons of fun for everyone except the poor, drunk Detroit fans seated next to me).

All the same, it was the first time at a professional sporting event that it seemed slavish adherence to corporate sponsors and entertainment actually disrupted the flow and performance of the game. It killed the energy in the building every time they stopped the action to take a "tv timeout." Absolutely destroyed it. The players stood by the bench chatting, while rather lame attempts to keep the crowd engaged ensued.

Baseball and football, of course, have no need to stop play in such a fashion to feed the advertising gods. Hockey, which has struggled since the 2004 lockout, has adopted the NBA's strategy of stopping play for TV dollars. Yet I couldn't help but wonder whether the strategy is wrongheaded in their situation. Hockey is not going to ever have the draw in the United States of the other major sports. It currently has no Gretzky's, no Lemiuex's, no Bobby Orr's to carry it forward. So why not take an unconventional strategy rather than following corporate sport status quo and make the in-game experience as pure as possible, as free from corporate presence as possible? After all, they apparently have more ticket buying fans than the other three leagues.

It's radical, yes. But there are other ways of making money on tv besides commericals, I think, and no doubt the brilliant people at the NHL could find them. And presenting the sport in its purest form would increase its draw to all those ticketholders. Why not try? They may earn more impressed customers like this one!

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.