The StarPhoenix

Leafs tap into massive Chinese market for NHL
The StarPhoenix

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will address millions of Chinese sports fans during a Toronto Maple Leafs game that will be shown across China by the state broadcaster.

Hockey is not a major sport in China but with more than 1.3 billion citizens it still posts some impressive numbers. For example, Leafs games attract a bigger television audience in China than Canada, Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment Ltd.’s chief commercial officer, Dave Hopkinson, said Sunday.

« When the NHL wants a game here, we will be the first to put up our hands, » said Hopkinson, who has already been to China six times to drum up business for MLSE, which also owns the AHL Toronto Marlies, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and MLS franchise Toronto FC.

As many as 20 Leafs games are to be shown live this winter on CCTV as part of a 119-game NHL package. MLSE brought four executives to China over the weekend on a visit that was timed to coincide with the presence of Harper and dozens of business leaders from Canada. « Prime Minister Harper likes the idea of using sports as a bridge to China, » said Bo Hu, the Beijing-born manager for MLSE’s international business development. « Being here first is a big advantage. » Some have assumed that the Leafs were trying to emulate the global marketing sensation that Manchester United has become.

Big money may eventually be involved, too. It has not escaped the NHL’s notice that the average ticket price for an NBA pre-season game in China has been $500 US. China already contributes $2.5 million a year to MLSE’s coffers through sponsorships and Mandarin-language advertising on the boards at the Air Canada Centre.

Cette nouvelle est intéressante, car elle montre le formidable potentiel de la mondialisation. En Chine, même si le hockey est très marginal, l’énorme bassin de population fait en sorte que ce sport est plus regarder qu’au Canada !

Il est aussi remarquable de voir des publicités en mandarin sur les bandes du Air Canada Center de Toronto (on a pu les voir samedi dernier). Notons que les Canadiens de Montréal semblent avoir laissé passer ce bateau…

P.-S. On verra les Maple Leafs jouer en Chine avant de voir les Nordiques jouer dans le nouvel aréna de Québec.