10 insights from the 10th Annual PrimeTime Sports Management Conference


From contract negotiations to enhancing the fan experience, the 10th Annual PrimeTime Sports Management Conference did not disappoint. The two-day conference featured a first-class lineup of panel discussions and keynotes, covering the business side of sports from A-Z. As a nod to the Conference’s 10th year, here are our top ten insights from the event:

The NHL wants to host a World Cup of Hockey every four years

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman described last year’s World Cup of Hockey as being a huge success. As a result, the NHL has been in discussions with the NHLPA to host a World Cup of Hockey on a regular schedule, likely every four years. However, 2020 presents an issue as it’s when both the NHL and the NHLPA can choose to opt out of their current CBA.

“It couldn’t have been better.” – Gary Bettman on the 2016 World Cup of Hockey

When pressed on the 2018 Olympics by TSN’s Gord Miller, Bettman reiterated that the NHL is not going to PyeongChang. However, if the Olympics were to return to North America in the future, Bettman said it would be a “different equation” that would need to be evaluated.

Rene Fasel plans to retire in 2020

Rene Fasel on stage at the 10th Annual PrimeTime Sports Conference.

IIHF President Rene Fasel told the audience that he plans to retire when his contract is up in 2020. He’ll be 70 years old at the time. Meanwhile, when asked the same question, the 65-year old Gary Bettman said he has no plans to retire and plans to stay on in his role as NHL Commissioner for as long as the owners are happy with his performance.

Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport

In addition to being the fastest growing sport in the United States, National Lacrosse League (NLL) Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz said league attendance increased 12% last year and that the League is targeting tech-savvy, party-goers under the age of 35 (skewing male).

Basketball Canada partners with DAZN

Basketball Canada President & CEO Michele O’Keefe announced a new 3-year partnership with DAZN to produce the senior men’s basketball games starting later this month. The move comes after a rocky start for DAZN in Canada that’s resulted in many complaints about the quality of its NFL live streaming service.

There are more Canadians playing golf than any other sport

Despite there being a perception that golf is dying, incoming Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum said there’s more Canadians playing golf right now than any other sport. Applebaum also said Golf Canada plans to move towards an ultra-premium and almost free pricing structure for their major events to attract more fans.

Blue Jays to experiment with later start times

Mark Ditmars, the Blue Jays VP of Corporate Partnerships, said the Blue Jays will experiment with later Saturday start times in 2018 as a way to attract more fans to Rogers Centre.

“Winning matters in selling corporate sponsorships.” – Mark Ditmars, Blue Jays VP of Corporate Parnerships

Furthermore, when it comes to selling corporate sponsorships, Ditmars said the Blue Jays play on the field in recent years and the renewed excitement around the team has helped.

Covering the Canada Games is the “right thing to do”

Despite not being a money maker for the network, Mark Milliere, TSN’s Senior Vice-President of Production, said covering the Canada Games is the “right thing to do.” Furthermore, TSN’s contract with Hockey Canada stipulates that in addition to broadcasting the World Juniors, they must also cover lower profile tournaments like the Esso and Telus Cups.

The NHL’s digital transformation continues

Heidi Browning, the NHL’s Chief Marketing Officer, said the NHL is continuing the digital transformation of its 100-year old brand, with the goal of personalizing the fan experience. The NHL recently hit 150 million followers across all League, team, and player social platforms, and Browning described the League’s fans as being the youngest, most tech-savvy, and having the highest household income of all the major leagues.

“At least 20 groups” expressed interest in ACC naming rights

According to Dave Hopkinson, MLSE’s Chief Commercial Officer, Scotiabank first approached MLSE six years ago in what would eventually become a historic 20-year, $800 million naming rights deal for the busiest stadium in Canada, the Air Canada Centre. Hopkinson said “at least 20 groups” expressed interest in the building’s naming rights over the past 8-10 years, but Scotiabank was the only group MLSE got into serious discussions with as the process moved along. For Scotiabank’s John Doig, brand equity and past results helped justify the deal for his company.

The Canadian Premier League is coming

Earl Cochrane, Chief Strategic Development Officer for Canada Soccer, said the Canadian Premier League is coming, but that 2019 is more likely. The proposed fully professional, FIFA-sanctioned soccer league has two teams – one in Hamilton and one in Winnipeg – confirmed, with six teams expected to begin play in the first season. Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Moncton, and Saskatchewan have all been rumored as potential team destinations.

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