Dave McCarthy, VP of consumer products marketing for the National Hockey League, understands that optimism about any business these days must be tempered in the face of daunting economic turmoil. That said, with the 2008-09 season now underway, the league is looking to maintain the momentum it enjoyed with trading card and memorabilia sales last year.
“Demand continued to be very strong over the summer, and some of the early products that have been delivered into the marketplace have been tremendously well received and exceeding sales expectations,” McCarthy said in an interview for Sports Collecting Radio. “We’re very optimistic based on our early season results. Overall economic issues aside – and they’re very daunting issues – we have a very loyal fan base and there are prospects for another exciting season.”
He also noted that while hockey sales remain steady in strong NHL markets, one of the biggest growth markets has been in Chicago. Not only have the fortunes of the franchise dramatically improved, but the Blackhawks will host this year’s outdoor game, Jan. 1 at Wrigley Field. “The magic is back in Chicago,” McCarthy said. “For us to bring the Winter Classic to Wrigley Field, a historic venue, with such a young, promising team, we couldn’t be more excited about the potential for another sellout and strong ratings on NBC on New Year’s Day.”
McCarthy recently returned from Prague, one of two European cities that hosted this year’s regular-season openers. The league is on record as saying it is looking at a possible European division within 10 years. Will that offer opportunities for trading cards and collectibles? “The collectible market is developing there,” he said. “It’s the challenge for ourselves and our business partners to establish distribution and create products that are relevant for that audience. Once you have a presence there, then you can build a consumer products business and leverage that presence.”