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NHL Playoffs: Advertisers Concerned With Increase In Violence

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Marian Hossa on a stretcher after being hit by Raffi Torres. Increased violence has NHL advertisers worried about their own image.
Marian Hossa on a stretcher after being hit by Raffi Torres. Increased violence has NHL advertisers worried about their own image.

Ever hear the Rodney Dangerfield joke about how he went to a fight and a hockey game broke out?

Sponsors of the NHL aren't laughing at the violence dominating the Stanley Cup playoffs. They've let the league know that they are concerned about their company images being compromised by the fights and cheap hits, the Toronto Globe and Mail has reported. The league confirmed to the newspaper that concerned advertisers did inquire whether the league was "on top of" the media hand-wringing over player safety. The league said advertisers were paying big bucks to associate with the NHL brand, so they had a right to speak up.

One of the signature incidents was Raffi Torres' attack (video below) on the Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa Tuesday night. For knocking out Hossa with a flying shoulder to the chin, Torres, of the Phoenix Coyotes, was suspended 25 games, becoming the ninth player to be suspended during the playoffs, according to the Arizona Republic.

In a story headlined "Bad Blood, Good Ratings," The Daily pointed out last week's 50 percent uptick in NBC's playoff ratings in the United States over last year. So the dilemma for advertisers is: Is the extra exposure worth it when what's being exposed is more bloodshed and goonery?

Whether it's privately applauding or thinking "tsk tsk," the network appears to be getting returns on the 10-year, $2 billion deal it signed with the NHL last year.

The Globe and Mail's story did not mention specific advertisers, who are apparently griping behing the scenes. But the reporters did reach out to Discover, whose sign was visible behind an unconscious Hossa. The credit card company responded: “Discover expects that the NHL will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that its players are safe.”