Unless you're a diehard, you probably had no idea that the NHL season began on Tuesday night, and that it technically began for real last week in Prague. News to you, isn't it?
That's, sadly, extremely on brand for this league, which has no idea how to market itself to the masses. Having said that, the NHL may have pulled off an expert marketing troll at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, albeit an inadvertent one.
Just before puck drop for the New York Rangers-Tampa Bay Lightning opening night game, referee Chris Rooney launched into an awkward speech that could be heard by the entire crowd and those watching on TV. "To our great players and our great fans, welcome to opening night of the 2022-2023 NHL season," Rooney says as the players await him to finish his odd soliloquy. "What's better than this? Good luck to all players and let's have a great season." Ummm, OK?
Here's the cringe-tastic clip:
If you believe the NHL went galaxy brain on us (it didn't), this was a brilliant way to grab the internet's collective attention and remind them that hockey is, in fact, back in full force. Knowing the NHL, though, this is just a dumb, uncessary thing that happened to go viral because of how dumb and unecessary it was. No publicity is bad publicity, I guess.
Strangely enough, this has happened before. In 2021, when the NHL made its post-COVID return, referee Kelly Sutherland delivered an impassioned speech before dropping the puck for a Pittsburgh Penguins-Philadelphia Flyers game in an empty Wells Fargo Center:
This one at least made a little sense. A post-pandemic welcome back and some well wishes to everyone? Totally understandable. But Rooney's speech from Tuesday night? Just plain weird.