With it being the dog-days of summer, wouldn’t this be the time for the NHL to revitalize an old thing they really sold hard during the summer in the mid-to-late ’90s?? With everything in the ’90s being hip again, this is the time to bring ’em back to not only kill the summer doldrums, but to maybe put life into hockey off-the-ice.
That’s right, I’m talking about the NHL Street program.
Now, for justification, the NHL still has the NHL Street Program which all 30 teams take part in and the NHL has programs in 50 markets total thanks to the help of the club teams. However, it doesn’t have the peak appeal that it did in the ’90s.
Granted, during that time– Nike had gotten very deep into the hockey landscape. They even created a shoe for it– the Nike Air Street Deke. They had a huge roll-out with Sergei Fedorov as the poster boy for the whole experiment (it’s not like L.A. Gear with Gretzky, but it was a start). I remember seeing these ads in the NHL Faceoff and USA Hockey magazines, though I didn’t really like the idea of Nike coming into hockey. That said, Nike did pump some money and advertisement into the NHL Street idea. Plus, the jerseys they made for the teams were very of the times in the fashion sense.
With Nike into the game, they also expanded their appeal with the now Nike/NHL Street program. Not only were the sunbelt areas catered to, since street hockey was probably the only kind of hockey most knew with the lack of ice rinks at the time; but urban areas as well. This was covered in the June/July 1995 issue of Vibe Magazine where Nike’s marketing manager just wanted to get hockey sticks into the hands of kids who may not have been able to afford the game prior, just for them to experience the game first hand, which could in-turn mean a lifelong fan of hockey.
Despite not having the big flair it once had, the NHL Street program still goes around school and community centers with the same ideal– getting hockey sticks into the hands of kids who may not have had the chance to experience it. Of course, there are other tournaments in Canada that have brought a big appeal, especially with Hockey Night in Canada having the “Play On” tournament across the Great White North.
So, why hasn’t the NHL decided to bring something like this back?? To have tournaments in all 24 NHL cities would be a nice thing for the club teams to do in the lag during the summer months and have their names out there in the community. Hell, why not do an entire summer league of street hockey and have the team sponsor it?? Seems simple…so, to steal a line from the old sponsors….Gotta be the shoes….wait, no– just do it.
But that’s just the street hockey leg. There’s still plenty to tell about the roller side of things. Not only the NHL side of things, but the other leagues who did their best and succeeded for a time, but couldn’t maintain past the ’90s boom. More on that next time through.