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Five Questions: Collins energized for Stadium Series

Tuesday, 01.21.2014 / 3:00 AM / Five Questions With…

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Five Questions: Collins energized for Stadium Series
NHL COO John Collins talks about the upcoming Stadium Series games and the overall growth of the League.

NHL.com's weekly Q&A feature called "Five Questions With ..." runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game today and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features National Hockey League Chief Operating Officer John Collins:

John Collins is most looking forward to experiencing the noise when the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks walk through the tunnel, up the dugout steps, into plain sight and up the walkways to take the ice Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

"That roar that happens makes it all worthwhile," Collins, the NHL's Chief Operating Officer, told NHL.com.

As the NHL motors into the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series portion of the 2013-14 season, Chief Operating Officer John Collins talks about the success behind the League's outdoor games and the momentum regained since the last work stoppage. (Photo: Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI)

As the League motors into the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series portion of the 2013-14 regular season, Collins is confident in saying it has recovered from the lockout that wiped away a portion of the 2012-13 season.

In addition to the stadium games, the League's newest reality show, "NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other," debuts Wednesday on NBCSN following the conclusion of the Wednesday Night Rivalry game between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.

The Stadium Series begins Saturday in Los Angeles with the Ducks and Kings (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) and continues Sunday at Yankee Stadium in New York when the New York Rangers play the New Jersey Devils (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC). The Rangers then will play the New York Islanders on Jan. 29 at Yankee Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

The 2014 Sochi Olympics are coming next month, with the men's hockey tournament starting Feb. 12 and running through the gold-medal game Feb. 23.

And as if that wasn't enough, the NHL will come out of the Games with two more outdoor games -- the Stadium Series finale at Soldier Field in Chicago between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks on March 1, and the 2014 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic at BC Place in Vancouver between the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks on March 2.

"There was an attitude to really just regain the pace and the momentum that we were at before the CBA issue," Collins said. "We have been able to do that."

Here are Five Questions with … John Collins:

How do you measure the buzz in the markets, particularly Los Angeles and New York, now that the stadium games are closer? Are there things in particular that you look for in the markets to gauge the interest leading up to the games?

"The things that we look at are the coverage locally, what's happening, how much is hockey beginning to dominate not just the sports pages but the local news coverage? We're beginning to see some sponsorship activation in the marketplace around the event. Now that the operations crews are in full swings it's become a reality, so we're getting a lot of calls for tickets."

What has it meant for the League to have Wayne Gretzky on board promoting the Stadium Series game in L.A., being a face for the game?

"To not have him involved would be a mistake. In many respects he got it all going and it has been an incredible success story. Now as we celebrate that in the market at Dodger Stadium it is great for him to be able to take a bow and hopefully have everyone appreciate all that he has accomplished."

The "NHL Revealed" series starts Wednesday. What can you tell us about it?

"I've seen a number of segments as they have come up now. I won't see the whole show until it's edited and that won't be done until probably Tuesday night. But the bar is set really high by HBO and '24/7.' They do a great job. Going into this it's a little different premise. It's not just following two teams over four weeks. It's really following nine teams through five different outdoor games with the Olympics smack in the middle of it. From the get-go the idea was to try to view this season from the eye of the players. Get to know who they are and what they're all about, along with some of the really interesting storylines that the season presents. In the case of two groups of teammates, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as well as Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, you've got teammates becoming rivals during the Olympics coming back to be teammates the first weekend after the Olympics at Soldier Field, under the lights, primetime on NBC. There are a lot of twists and turns and it's really interesting, but this season gives us the ability to really do some special things and 'NHL Revealed' I think is going to be one of those special treats that comes out of this season."

In what ways has the outdoor hockey phenomenon surprised you since the first Winter Classic in Buffalo? Because it's not just the NHL doing this anymore.

"I think from the beginning one of the most important elements of being able to do the Winter Classic in Buffalo was that it be authentic. That it was a regular-season game, that it counts for two points, that the playing conditions are up to NHL standards and ultimately that the players and fans enjoy it and embrace it. It's one game in the middle of a season, but that's good because that means it is authentic and it is real. To introduce hockey's popularity and allow some people to maybe take a closer look at the sport and the amazing athletes who are a part of it, or introduce their kids to it because it looks like and it is a lot of fun, that is hopefully what we're doing. And along the way hopefully we create some great moments and bright memories for fans and players alike. That's what we're in the business to do."

Along those lines, when you got to the National Hockey League you talked about wanting to stress the word "national" because you felt the League needed more national exposure. Do you see some of that coming to fruition now with other sports leagues looking toward the NHL, seeing what you're doing, admiring it and in a way mimicking it? For instance, the NFL is doing a Fantasy Draft for the Pro Bowl this season.

"I think we're pretty focused on what we think we need to do. The thing that excited me from the first day I sat down with [Commissioner] Gary [Bettman] was his interest and willingness to change the business model and that was specifically to create more of a national scale, a national business on top of what the clubs were already doing. You look at six or seven years ago, when we were a $2.2 billion business, about five percent of that revenue was coming from national revenues. Now we're projected out to be a soon-to-be $4 billion industry with as much as 20-22 percent of that revenue coming from national business. It's an important contributor to the overall economic health to the League along with other things Gary has introduced, like revenue sharing. It grows the sport, it grows franchise values and it makes the sport that much stronger."

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