The China Games. The NHL has just finished its trip to the Asian hub in which it brought excitement, action, and a sense of optimism to the country. But what has it left behind? It is common knowledge that the NHL has been all over the news and forum boards with their decision to stop players from competing in the Beijing Winter Olympics.
So why now bring the NHL to China?
What is the NHL trying to do by parading the franchise internationally to people (who for the most part) will have never watched a single hockey game in their life. We can see the impact that they want to achieve and present. You only have to visit the NHL website to see the narrative they are creating. With shots of young children holding their first stick, people shouting with passion and joy for their chosen team, and a sense of joint commitment to the franchise there seems to be doubt and frustration from fans on what the NHL is attempting to achieve.
The main visible goal is to increase the franchises reach and fan base across the globe. With the convenient side-effect of this being profits. If people latch on to the sport and kids end up wishing to pursue hockey as a hobby/future career this only leaves the NHL wealthier for it. Now, I know that Hockey is a business and that a business has to make money to survive. But is enticing fans with no knowledge of hockey the right step to take? What about the fans who already hold a passion for the sport and are growing tiresome with the current handling and management on home turf. If Bettman isn’t careful then fans will only grow angrier with the system he is creating. Which will mean the illusion supporting his bank account will soon collapse with his career.
Enough with the negatives. What about the positive aspects?
This will now sound rather hypocritical of earlier statements but the big positive outcome I can see from this is one of which we all grew up with.
When pictures from the China games surface and we think of all the B.S surrounding the nature of these games let us instead consider the young faces looking up at the big screens filling their hopes with a new potential for their futures unknown to them before.
Now, I am in no way stating that we will suddenly be expecting a surplus of Chinese McDonald’s or Matthews coming up through the ranks anytime soon. Instead, by seeing the teams we love to play in these foreign places we should consider the way we felt as kids, teenagers, and parents at our first live game. Instead of stating ‘why bother?’ and considering the lack of interest, why not consider the potentials of offering up the sport to a crowd of people with no prior knowledge. To be able to witness athletes of such stature playing in your own country will spark the passion in some children’s eyes to see that these options in life are possible.
All in all, the China games can be viewed in lots of ways. We can see the pointlessness and the business-fueled networking at play or we can accept that these sides of any franchise are inevitable and see that there are positive aspects of this short expedition.
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