As you read this, the puck will have dropped on the 2016-17 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hockey’s postseason has arrived. The fans of every playoff team — especially those considered to be Stanley Cup contenders — are excited about truly meaningful hockey and memorable moments to come over the next two months.
But no one may be more thrilled about this particular postseason, with five Canadian teams in the mix, than Scott Moore, the president of Sportsnet and NHL Properties. Sportsnet’s parent company, Rogers Communications, inked a 12-year, $5.2 billion deal with the NHL in 2013. That investment didn’t work so well for the network last season, when none of the NHL’s seven Canadian franchises qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The league hadn’t seen a Canadian shutout in its postseason since 1970.
It wasn’t a great look for the national winter sport of Canada. As a result, viewers weren’t tuning in. Sportsnet’s ratings plunged by more than 50 percent during last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs (and more than 60 percent during the first round of the postseason). People lost their jobs, notably top production executive Gord Cutler and host George Stroumboulopoulos.
— Scott Moore (@MooreScottmoore) April 12, 2017
At the time, Moore tried to put a happy face on the situation by pointing out that Sportsnet’s matchups with U.S. teams drew higher ratings because Canadian viewers weren’t watching their country’s NHL teams play on CBC. However, the truth was still painful. As Moore told the New York Times‘ Curtis Rush, “Ask NBC how they would feel about an Edmonton-Montreal Stanley Cup final.”
Sportsnet’s prospects and Moore’s mood are considerably more upbeat this spring with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames among the NHL’s 16 playoff teams competing for the Stanley Cup. That’s five of the league’s seven Canadian franchises and, more importantly for Sportsnet, five of the country’s top six media markets. But Toronto and Montreal are crucial. Moore says he’s probably among the top five happiest people in Canada because of it.
“This is a renaissance of passion for hockey in the biggest markets in the country, and that has huge trickle-down effects,” Moore told the New York Times. “It helps the entire brand.”
In addition to media markets and Canadian teams involved, Moore points to the exciting, young NHL stars such as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Johnny Gaudreau who will appear in the playoffs and thrill viewers.
“This is the era of the young guns,” Moore said. “You’ve got really exciting new stars who are going to be the face of the league for the next number of years.”
“I think having those first-round picks who are spectacular players is reigniting interest in hockey in Canada.”
Three years into that $52 million deal, Moore is much more optimistic. As he put it, all it will take is an all-Canadian Stanley Cup Final for someone to view him as a genius for making that agreement.