When we all sat around and found other things to watch between October 2004 and June 2005, the NHL needed to come back strong, not only to re-engage hardcore fans who were still seething at missing an entire season, but also the casual sports fan to draw them into this "new" NHL.
Enter the "My NHL" ad campaign, which tried to capture the "warrior-like" nature of the game. "We wanted to get deep inside the soul of the game to reach the rabid fan who is starved for hockey and the casual fan who might have overlooked it," Thomas Cotton, president of Conductor, whose agency created the campaign, told Richard Sandomir of the New York Times in 2005.
Over five 30-second spots, the "story" was told with all of them packaged into this short:
The response was not good.
Martha Burk, who led a protest against Augusta National golf club over their lack of inclusion of female members, spoke out against the campaign calling the female who dresses the player in the spots a "sexual ornament". Meanwhile, people in the hockey world were wondering how the ads captured what hockey is.
From James Mirtle (2005):
Watch the commercial, stare in awe at its absurdity and bury your head in your hands. That, unfortunately, is the only appropriate response to what is, unfortunately, a "five-part story" that will capture "hockey's intensity, drama and power."
Unfortunately ... and there's that word again ... what we have is 15 seconds of garbage portraying hockey players as samurai warriors (or some other such nonsense). All we need is a Tom Cruise cameo, complete with Scientology-based musings.
ESPN's Terry Frei wasn't a fan:
This is what she could have said:
The spots are stupid.
They're insulting to hockey fans with brains.
They're not even funny. Well, at least not intentionally so.
They play right into the mostly absurd stereotypes of both the sport and its fans -- stereotypes we can try to laugh off because of their inaccuracy, but which continue to play a significant role in the NHL's inability to gain a stronger foothold in mainstream American sports.
And finally, Tom Benjamin didn't pass up the opportunity for a zinger:
Gary Bettman introduced the new NHL marketing campaign with the advertising slogan "My NHL" in big letters on the screen behind him.
At least he finally got something right.
What kind of marketing campaign are we in store for should labor peace disrupt the upcoming season?
Should we miss any games of the 2012-13 season, or (please no) another full season, it's likely all 30 rinks will get the "THANK YOU FANS" treatment, or something of that nature. And we'll be able to see it in person after emptying our wallets for tickets.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy