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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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NHL Exec’s Homecoming

The National Hockey League’s (NHL) Winter Classic, an outdoor game that in its fifth year will feature the New York Rangers playing in Philadelphia on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, was on New Year’s Day 2011 the most-viewed NHL regular season contest in 36 years.

One of the executives behind the NHL Winter Classic’s success is John Collins, the NHL’s chief operating officer and a graduate of the C.W. Post campus at Long Island University. He is returning to his alma mater on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 12:30 p.m. as part of C.W. Post’s Provost Distinguished Lecture Series. The one-hour event, to be held in the Brookville institution’s Pratt Recreation Center, is open to the public, and there is no admission fee. There are, however, only 120 seats available so C.W. Post is accepting reservations by calling the Office of Community Relations at 516-299-3500. They can also be made by emailing Jennifer.Fitz­ This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

“John will discuss his journey in the sports industry and share insights from his days as a top marketing executive at the NFL and pull back the curtain on the strategy deployed in his current role as the NHL’s chief operating officer to drive the league’s impressive growth,” a C.W. Post promotional flier stated. “He will also discuss how technology, emerging digital platforms and interactive media are revolutionizing both the fan experience and the sports business model.”

Collins, who received a Distinguished Alumni Award from C.W. Post in May 2011, earned a B.S. in business administration with a concentration in marketing from the school in 1983. His topic on Nov. 3—The Strategy Behind Today’s Sports Fan Experience—is one Collins can address credibly because, before joining the NHL in 2006, he was the president and CEO of the National Football League’s (NFL) Cleveland Browns.

Collins also won accolades as the NHL’s lead strategist when the NHL signed a 10-year, $2 billion U.S. media rights deal in April 2011 with the NBC Sports Group, the most significant in the NHL’s history. The league’s business success under Collins’ direction played a large part in the NHL being named SportsBusiness Journal’s Sports League of the Year (2010).

“The impact of the NHL Winter Classic goes well beyond television,” Collins explained to the media after the 2011 NHL Winter Classic, a game which the Washington Capitals won, 3-1, over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals-Penguins face-off attracted a sellout crowd of more than 68,000 to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, and drew an average of 4.5 million TV viewers nationwide. “The event greatly enhances all of our global businesses, from NHL.com and NHL Network to advertising and sponsorship, and of course, the NHL delivered significant economic impact to Pittsburgh,” Collins added.

Now, if you recall this column’s first paragraph, you probably noticed that the Rangers-Flyers game at Citizens Bank Park is slated for Monday, Jan. 2. 2012 marks the first year the NHL’s Winter Classic will not take place on New Year’s Day.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net