It’s pretty obvious that the NHL isn’t the biggest sport’s organization in the world.  Outside of Canada, the league doesn’t get the most viewers, make the most money or dominate sports highlight packages.  The good thing about this is that the lack of worldwide exposure means that the NHL has to try new things in order to be recognized.  One of the ways the league does this is by using technology in new and more effective ways.  With the launch of Apple’s iPad 2 garnering tons of hype today, we thought that this would be the perfect time to take a look at how the NHL uses technology.

Online Video

The first thing that stands out about the NHL’s approach to technology is how open they are with their video content.  The league offers video highlights of each game on NHL.com and also on YouTube.  But they don’t stop there.  A deal the league signed with Google Video in 2006 means that selected historical games (such as game seven of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final) can be viewed in their entirety online.  The NHL, as well as the NBA, is currently in talks with YouTube to show live games online.  Yahoo! Sports streams certain games online in both Canada and the United States as well.

While many sports leagues now offer online video and highlights for free, this wasn’t always the case.  Many leagues were still requiring paid subscriptions to watch highlights when the NHL was already providing them for free.

But the free options aren’t the only way that NHL video is available.  Not only does NHL GameCenter Live offer almost every game when it airs, but the service is available in more places than just the computer.  In November 2010 the NHL launched a GameCenter Live App for Sony Playstation 3, Roku and Boxee.

The NHL Vault also offers access to classic games for subscribers.

The NHL’s television deals with NBC and Versus is not very lucrative for the league.  The NHL and the NBC share revenue, but the network does not pay the league any fees to broadcast games.  While this may change in the near future, for now the NHL has decided to make content easily available to those who don’t subscribe to network TV as well.

Social Media

The NHL has embraced social media like few other professional sports leagues.  All 30 NHL teams have Twitter accounts and the teams use these to share news, highlights and behind-the-scenes footage with fans. While the NHL doesn’t really have a social media policy at this point, they seem to have no problem with players using social media (unless they use it like Paul Bissonnette first did, that is.)  The NHL’s official Twitter account has even curated a list of NHL players on Twitter.  The league has embraced Tweetups as well.

The league is also involved in Foursquare and Facebook.  However, the best part of these social media pages is that the NHL didn’t just set them up because they should.  They have fully embraced the technology and used it to communicate with fans very effectively.

Even NHL.com itself does a good job at staying on the cutting edge.  The NHL Fans section doesn’t just give fans a place to communicate, but it gives them access to blogs, groups, message boards and more.

The NHL understands that the media landscape has evolved and that in order to stay relevant with the audience it needs to evolve as well.  However, the best part of the NHL’s technology strategy is that it’s growing the game in an organic and unique way.

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