The NHL, which is not known for its progressive ideas, might be ahead of the curve for once and it has the Golden Knights to thank.
The league made a splash Monday by announcing a multiyear agreement with MGM Resorts International, saying it will provide the company with data to use for betting. And MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said the Knights “storybook season” got the ball rolling on the deal.
“We saw a lot, the NHL did and MGM, about hockey in the desert and we saw that in many cases 30, 40, 50 percent of the fans were fans of the visiting team,” Murren told reporters Monday. “We saw the kind of engagement we could create together. We saw the excitement and we saw the potential in a partnership with the NHL.”
Only the NBA and WNBA have a similar pact, meaning because of the Knights the NHL is at the forefront of legalized sports gambling. The league will let MGM use its team logos for marketing and promotion and give the company access to advanced game data that commissioner Gary Bettman said should be ready next season.
All partly because the NHL’s 31st franchise, which plays in an arena that MGM owns 50 percent of, captured the league’s attention its first year.
”Working together is not new for us,” Bettman said of MGM. “Today we enter a new phase of our relationship and it’s going to be exciting to see where we go together.”
Get ready for more morning hockey on the West Coast.
The NHL is working hard to woo overseas fans and Sports Business Daily reported Monday that the league is scheduling more games earlier on weekends to better cater to European TV markets. The Knights game against the New York Rangers on Dec. 16, which begins at 9:30 a.m. PST, is one example.
The report came before the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets played a two-game series in Helsinki, Finland, this week as the league works to gain fans abroad. The two games came after the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils each played a preseason game in Europe and then opened their regular seasons against each other in Sweden.
The NHL also played two preseason games in China this year.
“We’re happy to share our game,” Bettman told reporters in Helsinki on Thursday. “We want to do it on a more consistent basis in terms of bringing our teams over.”
Wednesday night Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen broke Canadian Twitter.
The right winger, who is enjoying a breakout season, was the subject of a joke on a radio show where the hosts discussed drinking a beer every time the 22-year-old scored. That turned into the hashtag #ShotgunJake, which turned into one of the biggest trending topics on Twitter in Canada on Wednesday after Virtanen scored twice in a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Fans from all over the country posted their personalized toasts to Virtanen, who already has five goals after scoring 10 all of last year. Good luck calming the Rogers Center crowd down if he keeps this up.
“I felt I was pretty confident tonight and it was really good to come through in the third period and beat Chicago,” Virtanen told reporters Wednesday.