During the 2011 NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas, several U.S. Army soldiers rappelled from the rafters to help present the King Clancy award to Warren, Mich., native Doug Weight.
The soldiers had been staged there for three hours prior to the show to create an element of surprise in an auditorium jam-packed with black-tied NHL stars, executives and media.
It was fitting for the men in camouflage to present that particular piece of hardware because it “exemplifies leadership” on and off the ice and is presented to the player who “has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.”
Randy Rose, senior manager of Consumer Products for the NHL, described that award presentation as “Truly the highlight of the show!
“We had a tremendous activation with over 60 soldiers marching on stage the year prior,” Rose said.
“We already set the bar high and wanted to come back with an even more captivating presentation.”
These events are just a few of the many that epitomize the strong bond that has developed between the NHL and the U.S. Armed Forces in recent years.
“At the time the U.S. Army first became a league partner, they were recruiting officers to join their ranks,” Rose added. “Our fan demographics fit perfectly into this strategy.”
As the partnership between the two entities has evolved, the marketing relationship continues to expand to expose viewers across the United States to every facet of U.S. military life.
Seeing images of our country’s camouflaged heroes maneuvering through training obstacle courses, rappelling from Apache helicopters and marching in their dress uniforms during NHL-related coverage has become commonplace. But the military’s presence was not limited to television and Internet advertisements.
“[Our fans] responded with standing ovations to Army’s activations at the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the NHL All-Star games and NHL Awards,” Rose said. “Seeing these soldiers and learning about their heroic efforts lead to a true appreciation of the Army by all NHL fans.”
Last season, the U.S. Marine Corps sponsored the NHL highlights on ESPN SportsCenter broadcasts, and the Versus camera inside the net was called the U.S. Navy Goal Cam. With the cooperation of the players, the U.S. Army teamed up with the NHL Studios Team to create an original series of videos called “Hockey’s Finest” prompting one league exec to say, “Fans flocked to those features.”
With the NHL game being a “tough” and “durable” product, the relationship fits like a glove, but this bond goes far beyond ad campaigns.
Just ask U.S. Olympic Team General Manager Brian Burke who has made two trips to Afghanistan to visit Canadian and American soldiers, in addition to visiting Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, Calif., after the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
“I had the Cup for four days, and this is the most special moment I’ve had with the Cup,” Burke said during his visit. “Not being with my family, not being with my friends. Being at Camp Pendleton.
“We think our jobs are important. Our players are famous. They’re on TV all the time. What we do compared to what these Marines do, it pales into insignificance.”