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NHL international digital platforms enjoy traffic spike after efforts to drive fan engagement

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The National Hockey League is reaping the rewards of increased engagement of its international audience with a significant rise in traffic of its foreign-language digital platforms.

According to league statistics, unique visitors to the NHL’s Russian, Finnish, Swedish, German, Czech, and Slovak websites have increased 28 per cent over the course of 2019-20 compared to the previous regular season, while overall visits increased 25 per cent year on year.

During the NHL’s coronavirus-enforced hiatus, NHL.com International – which oversees the websites – continued to drive fan engagement across its social media platforms, particularly by hosting nine native language video conference calls with European players.

Player-focused content has also driven fan engagement, such as Alex Ovechkin’s milestone 700th goal for a Russian audience and Mika Zibanejad’s five-goal game for Swedish supporters.

“The growth of these sites and social platforms speaks to our broader strategy in Europe, namely providing fans with the most compelling NHL content in a tailored way,” Jaka Lednik, the NHL’s group vice president of international strategy said in a statement. “This content includes the focus of the stories on our international websites, the content and tone of content on our social media platforms and the unique collaborations executed with our broadcast partners and other media across Europe. The growth of our international sites is further evidence of the success of this approach.”

NHL.com International also runs the league’s websites in French and Spanish. Unique visitors and overall visitors to LNH.com, the official French-Canadian language website of the NHL, are up 25 per cent and 23 per cent year on year, respectively.

In May, the NHL called off its planned regular-season games in Europe this year as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators were due to open the 2020-21 season in Prague, Czech Republic, while the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets were poised to play later in the year in Helsinki, Finland. The Bruins and Predators were also scheduled to hold part of their training camps in Germany and Switzerland, respectively, and play in exhibition games against local teams.

The 2020 NHL Global Series would have marked the fourth straight year and ninth season overall that the NHL has traveled to Europe to play regular-season games.

There had also been preliminary talks of the NHL playing exhibition games in China in the 2020-21 preseason.

The NHL and NHL Players Association have agreed on health and safety protocols to resume its 2019-20 season amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to multiple reports.

If everything is approved, the league would commence a modified 24-team plan to resume play in either late July or early August. The league and union have honed in on the Canadian markets of Edmonton and Toronto as “hub cities” for that season resumption.

Further reading: NHL shakes up weekend schedule to increase European fanbase and revenues