Let’s. Play. Hockey!

By Jessi Pierce

10/10/16

For most people, October means excitement over scarves, football, and pumpkin-flavored everything. For the majority of Minnesotans, especially myself, it also means big excitement for one other thing: the return of hockey season (the state’s unofficial sport).

The 2016-17 National Hockey League regular season gets underway on Thursday (Oct. 13). The State of Hockey will welcome the hometown Minnesota Wild back to the ice, and red and green will symbolize more than Christmas colors once again.

Here at Touchpoint Media, hockey holds a special place in our hearts. With clients including USA Hockey, Minnesota Hockey, Massachusetts Hockey, United States Hockey League, and College Hockey Inc., we have a big on-ice focus year-round. Working with great grassroots and elite programs, we are often looking to the NHL to see what direction they are taking in their content initiatives. The League might not change up their approach as often as a team makes line changes, but in the past five years, there have been noticeable improvements, the biggest of which began last year.

Before the start of the 2015-16 season, the NHL formed a digital rights partnership with Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM). Per the NHL:

The partnership will transform the fan experience by creating a fully integrated global hub of digital content that encompasses video, live game streaming, social media, fantasy, apps, along with statistical and analytical content. With an emphasis on deeper access into the game and telling the stories of NHL players, MLBAM and the NHL will collaborate on developing new digital products and platforms while enhancing current offerings.”

The six-year deal took effect Jan. 2016, with changes in the NHL’s digital content strategy gradually implemented throughout the year. This season, those changes will be in full effect throughout the league, along with a few other content transformations.

Website Redesign
The NHL revamped its website, NHL.com, in February 2016 to the dismay of many League fans. To roll out the new season, all 30 NHL teams have a redesigned website to emulate NHL.com.

New to team sites is the official NHL logo across the top of the page, along with an “official” statement. In the case of the Minnesota Wild, it reads: “The Official Site of the Minnesota Wild.” Moving down the page, fans are greeted with recent scores above the news slider, which features the team’s top news. Player pages, schedules, feature stories, and more remain in the attributed sections.

According to the NHL, the primary reason behind the change was to make the team websites consistent with the NHL-branded theme and to make them mobile-friendly.

NHL Content Initiatives

Content Redesign
Frequent visitors of NHL.com will see a different look to story and game formats as well. In the past, games have been recapped in a lengthy article. But who wants to scroll through 700+ words (except in this blog’s case)?

Editors at NHL.com instead decided to present stories, previews, and recaps in more digestible, bite-sized content. Pull-out sections including “Goal of the Game,” “Save of the Game,” and “Highlight of the Game” will give pertinent information and an in-depth look but with a smaller word count. Another section, named “Quotable,” will feature quotes from players and coaches that didn’t make the cut in the recap story, giving fans a unique look into what’s said inside the locker room—the printable stuff anyway.

NHL.tv
Last season, the NHL rebranded its live streaming system from GameCenter Live to NHL.tv. Unlike changes made to NHL.com, updates to NHL.tv were met with great fanfare, with the stream coming in clearer and available on more devices than GameCenter Live ever was.

Again this year, fans will have three subscription options: Yearly ($139.99), Monthly ($24.99) and Single Team Package. Monthly and Yearly subscriptions provide fans the chance to watch live, out-of-market regular and preseason games on any supported device. NHL.tv also allows users to choose play-by-play broadcasts from either the home or away team, DVR controls and full access to game archives.

Team Apps and NHL App Merge
Gone are the individual team apps, with every team now housed on the NHL mobile app. Fans can select their favorite team(s) to receive news, highlights and updates from just their squad(s). Fans can also customize any content and notifications they want to receive.

Ultimately, the NHL continues to make strides in catering its content to fans. Upgraded efforts on the digital side continue to promote the game for those unable to make it to center ice. As an advocate of promoting this great game, I think the NHL scored big with the changes this season. Now, let’s play hockey.