By Barry Janoff
September 27, 2016: Backed by marketing and media partners, current players, icons led by Wayne Gretzky and a multi-platform strategy, the NHL will celebrate its 100th anniversary this coming season with events to run from January through December.
The NHL traces its roots back to 1909 and the National Hockey Assn., which was among several leagues vying for the Stanley Cup. In 1917, with the NHA about to fold, "a meeting took place on the night of Nov. 22 at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "According to the handwritten minutes, the meeting was called 'to ascertain if some steps could be taken to perpetuate the game of hockey.'
"After discussion among the five men in attendance — Frank Calder Tom Gorman, George Kendall, Sam Lichtenhein and Michael Quinn — the minutes tell us that 'the motion was carried,'" said Bettman. "It took four more days of discussion and debate before the National Hockey League formally came into being on Nov. 26, 1917."
Bettman, speaking at a media conference on Tuesday at the World Cup of Hockey, laid out multi-level plans that the NHL will activate to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
The Centennial celebration officially begins on Jan. 1, 2017, in Toronto with the NHL Centennial Classic outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in BMO Field. A 12-month “festival of events and content initiatives” will culminate with the anniversary of the league's founding on Nov. 26 and first games on Dec. 19.
"The perpetuation of the game of hockey has been in progress ever since 1917," said Bettman. "The men who met in the Windsor Hotel could not possible imagine that a day would come when the league’s regular season and playoffs would be attended by more than 23 million fans in 30 markets, soon to be 31 (Las Vegas in 2017). But that has brought us to this historic moment when we anticipate the NHL’s 100th birthday."
Events will include the naming of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in history during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, Jan 25-27, with No. 1 arguably being Gretzky, who will serve as the official ambassador for the entire Centennial Celebration.
"As I've said countless times, I owe just about everything I now have in my life to the game of hockey and the National Hockey League,” Gretzky, who during a 20-year NHL career scored 894 goals and had 1,963 assists and was a member of four Stanley Cup winning teams. “And I am thrilled to spend the next year celebrating its past, present and future with hockey fans around the world."
The NHL said that its marketing partners would activate behind the year-long event across all platforms, POP, merchandise and more, with details to follow. NHL support would include TV — including a current spot narrated by actor Michael Chiklis — radio, print, Internet, social media, in-arena and other outlets.
Broadcast and online creative will include documentaries focusing on the history of the Stanley Cup; 100 iconic NHL moments (goals, games, the odd and unusual, seminal events); and an NHL Time Capsule, to air each day of the season highlighting milestones throughout the league's 100-year history via original stories and videos.
To engage fans across the U.S. and Canada, an NHL Centennial Truck Tour (January-December) will make stops in all NHL markets and other local communities.
According to the NHL, the Centennial Tour footprint would consist of three main components: a 53-foot museum truck that includes an interactive interior with original video content, exclusive memorabilia and fan activations; a second 53-foot trailer with giant video screen for viewing parties and stage for player and alumni appearances; and a pop-up synthetic rink for youth hockey games and clinics.
"A century of great players, great plays and great moments deserves a year-long celebration, and we invite everyone to join our party in 2017."
The Tour is scheduled to begin Jan.1 at the NHL Centennial Classic in Toronto.
Among other highlights revealed to date:
• The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade (Jan. 2;), with the NHL and the Los Angeles Kings — who are celebrating their 50th anniversary — sharing a hockey-themed float in a parade that will lead into the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks (NBC).
• 100 Greatest NHL Players and Gala in Los Angeles during NHL All-Star weekend, with current day All-Stars joined by the all-time greats “for the largest gathering of NHL stars in one location in league history.”
The NHL traces its roots back to 1909 and the National Hockey Assn., which was among several leagues vying for the Stanley Cup. The first NHL season was played in two halves, the first with four teams (two in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa), the second with three teams when the Montreal Wanderers dropped out.
The first U.S. franchise was the Boston Bruins in 1924, which also saw the NHL’s first six-team league. The Original Six era began in 1942-43: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
"A century of great players, great plays and great moments deserves a year-long celebration, and we invite everyone to join our party in 2017," said Bettman. "We are delighted that Wayne Gretzky — whose spectacular contributions on the ice matched his immeasurable graciousness and popularity off the ice — will serve as our Centennial's official ambassador as we honor all the drama, suspense, excitement and memories that have thrilled the best fans in sports for generations."
The NHL said that Centennial celebrations would culminate with special events in the league's birthplace, Montreal, and the site of the league's first-ever game, Ottawa, in November and December, respectively. Details on these events would be unveiled at a later date.
2017 NHL CENTENNIAL CALENDAR OF CELEBRATIONS (Subject to change)
Jan.-Dec.: NHL Centennial Truck Tour
Jan.-Dec.: NHL Time Capsule
Jan. 1: NHL Centennial Classic (Toronto)
Jan. 2: Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade (Pasadena, CA)
Jan. 2: Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (St. Louis)
Jan. 27-29: NHL All-Star (Los Angeles)
Feb. 25: Coors Light NHL Stadium Series (Pittsburgh)
Mar. 15-18: Stanley Cup 125th Anniversary Celebrations (Ottawa)
June 2017: NHL Awards (Las Vegas)
June 23-24: NHL Draft (Chicago)
Nov. 26: NHL 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the League
Dec. 19: NHL 100th Anniversary of the First Games Played
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