Mid-July until mid-August is a dead zone for hockey fans. Generally around this time we are greeted with tweets from the hockey insiders that they are off to the cabin and will be back in September. At this point hockey fans either switch over to baseball or turn to YouTube to get their hockey fix. This is also the time of year where I start watching Slap Shot, Goon, and the Mighty Ducks to tide me over until the start of the 2014-15 season.
Back in the 90s, hockey fans turned to Roller Hockey International in order to get their hockey fix, but the league was never able to succeed financially and eventually went belly up after a few seasons. One of the main issues was that the RHI never gained financial or promotional support from the NHL. At that time, the NHL was attempting to revamp the game and build their own fan base. A summer roller hockey league was seen as a waste of resources.
We now have a stronger, wealthier NHL that is still attempting to expand into non-traditional hockey markets (Los Vegas anyone?). There is no professional roller hockey league like the RHI for the NHL to partner with and creating their own league would be too large of an endeavour for the NHL. Perhaps now is the time for the NHL to develop a summer roller hockey tournament. A venue in a warmer climate would be perfect for the event and games could either be played indoors in minor league sized arenas or outdoors.
Los Vegas, San Diego, Hawaii; all desirable locations for prospects and minor league players to go play in a month long tournament. Perhaps some NHLers would want to take part in the tournament as well. The NHL would bring their game of hockey to a new audience and the players would get an opportunity to show off their skills prior to prospect and rookie camps.
The NHL could look to the All-Star Game, Stadium Series, and the Winter Classic for the format of the tournament; including a fantasy draft to assemble the teams and the setup for the outdoor venue. Instead of trying to invent a new league or sport like RHI, the tournament play could use the same rules as the NHL, or even be utilized to test out new ones for the league.
NBC Sports Network could provide coverage, with the championship matchup televised on the main NBC network. To gain more attention from NHL fans, players could make special appearances on the broadcast and have a few representatives from the Stanley Cup winning team on site with the cup.
A summer iteration of the game would be an excellent distraction for hockey fans during the offseason. It could become for hockey what the NBA Summer league is for basketball. In addition it could provide experience for prospects and serve as a test bed for new rules for the league.