For the first time in 46 years, the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs do not feature a team from Canada. All seven Canadian-based teams failed to qualify for the playoffs this season, as opposed to last season when five of seven made an appearance. As a result, the viewership for this year’s playoffs is down 60% in Canada. Canada is a huge market for hockey and the NHL, so while Canada’s Sportsnet executive is “disappointed but not panicked,” it seems there is cause for concern, at least from a marketing perspective. The poor viewership in Canada can have negative implications for the NHL’s partnerships and sponsors for Canadian television networks. If all seven Canadian teams fail to reach the postseason again next year, there could be some hesitation from companies to provide sponsorships or engage in partnerships with the Stanley Cup playoffs next season. So what can the NHL do to help engage the Canadian audience in this year’s playoffs? As mentioned in a previous post, one of the most valuable marketing chips a sports entity holds are the athletes themselves. The NHL needs to utilize its Canadian-born stars that are still competing in the playoffs to market to the Canadian audience. Many players who have represented Canada at international competitions are still currently competing with their American-based NHL teams for the Stanley Cup. Prime examples of these players include Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars), Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), John Tavares (New York Islanders), and even Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos who may return to the playoffs after injury if the Lightning can stay in the playoffs long enough. These players all have deep roots in Canada, and can be used as a promotional and marketing device to entice Canadian viewers to watch the playoffs. So while Canadian networks may not be “panicked” about the down viewership in this year, I believe it is a cause for concern. But due to Canada’s huge presence in the NHL, there are plenty of marketable players available who can help draw in Canadian viewers if the NHL promotes and markets them properly.