The NHL’s chief content officer and executive vice-president, Steve Mayer, has spoken of the importance the North American ice hockey league places on elevating the fan experience following its latest Stadium Series fixture at the weekend.
On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Penguins faced off against the Philadelphia Flyers at Heinz Field, home of NFL American football team the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The NHL’s Stadium Series, which sees regular-season games staged outside as opposed to indoors, has grown in popularity since its launch in 2014. Some 67,318 people attended Saturday’s game, which the Penguins won 4-2. The figure made the fixture one of the most-attended outdoor games in NHL history.
“When you look at all the other sports, every sport has their signature,” Mayer told the Sports Illustrated magazine. “This has become ours. This is really different.”
Saturday’s event began with The PreGame, a festival held outside Heinz Field that featured food, games, photo opportunities with the Stanley Cup and a performance from Icelandic rock band Kaleo.
US rock band Train also performed during the first-period intermission, replacing One Republic, who were forced to withdraw through illness.
Mayer said a number of entertainment options are considered when planning Stadium Series events to ensure the games appeal to a range of demographics.
“We want to make sure that there’s a little something for everybody,” Mayer said.
“We realise that for some people, this could be their first game, so you want to suck them in with all the other things we do. We know also that there’s a large audience out there that enjoys music and might just watch our game because they like the artist.”
Former NHL players were also on hand for meet-and-greet sessions with fans, while real-life penguins were even introduced on the ice at Heinz Field.
“A lot of our choices and the things we’re trying to do is based on connecting with sports fans who might become hockey fans,” Mayer said. “Hockey fans are obsessed with the sport and rightfully so, they’ll watch it no matter when.
“There’s a lot of fans out there that we know if we can get them to watch a game, they’re going to love it.”