Morning Free Association – July 31 – Nǐ Hǎo Shànghǎi

Some Bruins are visiting China as part of a trip sponsored by O.R.G. packaging

So you’re likely familiar with this by now. Much like last year, Torey Krug, Tuukka Rask, David Pastrnak, and Hal Gill are in China, having visited the Great Wall, coached a youth hockey clinic for 3 days, and then visited Shanghai. The sponsor O.R.G. has been placing adverts not only in the TD Garden, but in many NHL rinks. (Pasta actually has his own deal, separate from the Bruins/O.R.G. deal.)

So that’s wonderful. Some Bruins players get to travel, and a bunch of little Chinese kids get to interact with some NHL stars. Hooray!

But wait a minute.
What do the Jacobs’s get out of this? Neither J.J. nor the NHL are exactly known for their largess, so what gives?

Well, we know that the KHL is trying to expand into China, and HC Kunlun Red Star is already bringing KHL hockey to Beijing. O.R.G. is a sponsor for the Red Star as well. With the KHL already having a foothold in the country, and having the advantage of proximity, can the NHL even get a foothold there?
It seems so. The Kings & Canucks will play pre-season games there this fall, both in Beijing and in Shanghai. It is sponsored again by O.R.G. Yes, it is only a pair of crappy exhibition games, but it’s still 2 NHL teams playing in Asia.
Not only is the NHL coming to China, so is a CWHL team. Yep. The Red Star group which operates the KHL team is launching a women’s hockey club in Shenzen (near Hong Kong). Each North American team in the CWHL will travel across the ocean to play a 3 game series in China and Red Star Shenzen will also play 3 away games in North America against each opponent. (This extends the season to 30 games per team).

Hockey advocates in China seem to be reaching out, trying to use international cooperation to learn more modern techniques in coaching, training, conditioning, etc.
Still, what do WE (North America) get out of it?
Well, the CWHL gets a fat check from the new member club, and the prospect of luring advertisers. The NHL is not blind to this. China reportedly has not just 1.3 billion possible viewers, but already has 22 million actual hockey viewers. This is a market that has great potential if the NHL can leverage its licensing & advertising revenue. Right now it seems that ~4 NHL games per week are shown in China – roughly 1/8th of available games. the potential for leveraging that into a reliable revenue stream must be pretty tempting to NHL owners. I wish them well.
Could struggling franchises get Asian investors to shore up their capital base? (As the NFL’s Jaguars have via their push into the London market) Could an online streaming deal boost league revenue like it did for the NBA with a ~$140m/yr deal? That’s what the NHL is hoping for. Stay tuned, sports fans.

About IntentionallyWidenberg

Position: Power Forward.
Occupation: I am the Egg Man. Contrary to popular belief, I am not the Walrus.

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