Why Would the NHL Delete a Press Release about 2011-12 Revenue?

By Emma Harger
The Winter Classic is just one positive aspect of a hugely glowing press release about the NHL’s 2011-12 revenue. So why is that press release gone? Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

Allan Walsh, lawyer, player agent and Twitter aficionado, has been keeping tabs on various aspects of the NHL lockout. On Oct. 3, he said something strange on his Twitter.

“NHL Press Release on 2011-12 revenues curiously deleted from http://NHL.com,” he said.

I had to see if this was true. I tested this for myself by simply typing “NHL revenues 2010-11 press release” into Google. The first result was the press release from nhl.com. But, change the years to 2011-12 and suddenly things change. The Wikipedia page for John Collins, the league’s chief operating officer, becomes the first result, as well as news articles about revenues. But there is no first-page result, let alone first overall result, from nhl.com like there was for 2010-11.

Early last month, before the NHL lockout began, Walsh spent a series of tweets recapping the information from the 2011-12 revenues press release and even mentioned its release date, April 12. “NHL press release April 12 2012” typed into Google returns Walsh’s tweets about it as the first result, then a bunch of official stories about the Chicago/Phoenix game that night.

But though the NHL appears to have scrubbed that particular press release from their website, it has been mirrored in its entirety on other websites (if you prefer to read it in full form, not in a series of tweets). The release is available as a pdf here or as inline text here.

The release is headlined “NHL posts record revenue and growth across multiple business platforms for the seventh consecutive season.” In the first paragraph, these pleasant numbers are recited:

  • 95.6 percent arena capacity (almost broke the 2008-09 record)
  • Gamecenter Live subscriptions up 93 percent
  • Twitter follows up 91 percent
  • NHL Mobile pageviews up 81 percent
  • Projected revenue of more than $3.2 billion by the time the Stanley Cup is raised
  • Forecast revenue increase of 18 percent
  • Overall revenue growth since 2003-04 at 195 percent

In short: everything is good and getting better. The fact that various Internet-based criteria are mentioned is because that is part of Collins’ strategy overall–engage with fans on the Internet across various platforms, including social media and launching versions of NHL.com in other languages. It’s earned him many accolades in the business world.

Collins is quoted in the press release [emphasis mine]:

“Thanks to another season of down-to-the-wire competition on the ice and media partners and sponsors eager to engage with our fans in new ways, we were able to once again re-write the record book for business success,” said NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins. “And even with all the growth we’ve experienced the past six years, we all agree the best is yet to come.”

There’s even more good news for those companies that have sponsored the NHL: renewed or secured agreements with some big name corporations, biggest ad sales ever during the playoffs, big ratings in America and Canada, big viewership bumps in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, expansions of shows and new programming on NHL Network–you name it. The league is even strengthening broadcasting agreements in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Sales at New York City’s NHL Store were up 27 percent, team concession shops reported 13 percent increases in sales, shop.nhl.com had a 20 percent sales boost (most popular jersey: Claude Giroux), the Thanksgiving Showdown created yet another opportunity for sponsorship and revenue that will continue for the next three years and so on.

There is literally no bad news in this press release at all. It is as glowing as a press release can get and should put a smile on the face of everyone with a monetary involvement in any part of the release.

So, why has it vanished from NHL.com? Wouldn’t they want to keep something up that shows how big the league has gotten, the optimism for the future and the raw numbers across every category?

Yes, perhaps–if the league weren’t trying to advance the narrative that they’re paying players too much and so the faces of the game (remember: the NHL shop sells Claude Giroux jerseys, not Ed Snider jerseys) need to take big cuts in their share of hockey-related revenue before the season can start.

When that’s brought into the equation, having a document like this on the league’s official site does not gel with that particular narrative. So, it had to go–although of course it is not really gone from the entire Internet at all.

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