It would appear the NHL is taking a page out of the NHL and NBA playbooks by turning their eyes to Europe. The league announced that they are adjusting their schedule to more weekend mid-day games in order to attract more attention from across the pond. While that is good news for Europeans, what does it mean to you as a sports-themed operator? The answer is a quite a few things.

To start it means you’ll have more varied content to show on weekends. A good mix of professional and college athletics is great news for attracting more folks during a tough-to-sell revenue period. It’s also a great excuse to deliver something to your much maligned NHL fans. No doubt the NHL is the last among equals in the North American pro sports ranks (all due respect to our Canadian readers). That’s why this attempt by the league to expand is a great way to reward them.

In fact, we thought of three easy ways to take advantage of more mid-afternoon weekend NHL games.

Make It an NHL Party

Sports Bar NHL Viewing Party

There are NHL fans among you, but they need to feel welcomed. The NHL has dubbed these newly schedule games “European Game of the Week”’ which makes for a fun theme. Market to your already full restaurant that you are hosting a weekly viewing event with specials and prizes and giveaways.

One fun sub-promo is the Hat Trick Challenge, where you allow folks to pick a player that is most likely to scores three goals in a game. If their player accomplishes the feat, the patron wins a prize. It’s an easy way to get email addresses and will keep guests engaged even if the game isn’t great.

Reward Frequency

Rewarding NHL Fan Loyalty

Hockey fans are loyal. Both to their team and to a place that celebrates their team. That’s why rewarding their frequency is such low hanging fruit. There are multiple ways to reward frequency. A personal favorite is via check-ins. If you have a loyalty app it’s fairly easy, but you can also encourage your guests to do so via social media and deliver them an instant reward for it. Either way, you are rewarding your regulars for coming in and sharing the experience. Add in likes/follows and you can add to your tally. Think of it as a pay-to-play. “Here’s your XX% discount for checking in at European NHL Game of the Week!”

Give NHL Fans a Stake

Sports Bars Fan marketing

Independent promoters have always had a role in building traffic for hospitality venues. NHL fans love to communicate with other NHL fans. Hit the local Facebook groups of NHL fans in your area and contact the person that manages the group. Offer them an individual discount or a group discount for coming to the European Game of the Week. If there are multiple groups or specific team groups, that’s even better. Offer to sponsor their club with specials or incentives to visit. Building loyal regulars is a key strategy to growing any business. For sports-themed operators it’s even more important. Once they experience how great your place is for watching sports you have a chance at gaining their loyalty.

You may even want to reach out to local hockey bloggers in your area, too, to help promote your event and/or offer local fans a friendly discount. Local fan blogs tend to have large followings but less red tape to go through compared to larger news organizations.