During the frustrating lockout, word spread about the NHL conducting focus groups to figure out how to win fans back to the most exciting game in the world. Fans were furious to hear that the NHL figured it could simply win us over with a heart warming message, or some magical phrase designed to turn us into dumb, drooling sheep again. Fans were mad at themselves during the lockout, too. Mad that we even followed the NHL at all, that we ever spent money on a league that would take advantage of us every time a CBA expired, and assumed we'd come crawling back for more.
Well, we did. We filled NHL arenas and TV ratings were reported to be high.
And what about that heart warming message or magical phrase? Something about a "shared sacrifice"? It never came. There was no ceremony, no suits, no podium. Instead, the lockout ended in the middle of the night with Bettman and Fehr announcing the deal in their casual street clothes. There was an apology from Bettman later on, but the message was simply what the fans wanted to hear: Drop the puck. Get on with it. Game on.
This is what the commercial ISN'T: It isn't heartwarming. It isn't a plea, it isn't an apology, it isn't trickery. It isn't even a sell on hockey or the players. It is a challenge.
The NHL is challenging the fans. Brilliant. The NHL is challenging our creativity and inviting us to get weird. They are giving the fans free reign to dress up, build costumes, start new memes, dance, yell, hoot and holler. It's a brilliant way of acknowledging our pent up energy/rage/anger and giving us the freedom to not only express it, but to help amp up the energy again. The NHL needs fans to be excited. That is their hidden message here.
I hope that this ad campaign is a true effort to build upon what fans already do: the green men, weird costumes, giant heads, random horse masks, you name it. Be weird. Be more weird than last year. What you are doing now is not weird enough. It's a challenge. It's brilliant. I love it. I am the white sheep.