When the coronavirus pandemic first swept the world, Steve Mayer ’84, senior executive vice president and chief content officer for the National Hockey League (NHL), had to figure out a way to keep fans engaged during a time of uncertainty.
The NHL paused its season on March 12, 2020, with 189 games remaining, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“We thought the stoppage was going to last a week or two,” he said. “Then, after a few weeks passed and we realized the stoppage was going to last a lot longer, we started asking different questions. ‘Can we come back? What’s it going to look like? How can we protect our players, fans, and staff? ’ The world had never seen anything like this.”
Mayer’s first order of business was to get creation of the league’s content up and running again.
“We wanted to keep our fans informed and engaged,” he said. “To do that, we gave producers and editors equipment for their homes and gave them the ability to access the league’s video content remotely. We also worked with players to send out messaging encouraging mask wearing and hand washing.”
With content hitting homes again, the next, more arduous task was at hand: helping the league’s return-to-play initiative be a success.
“We weren’t in a rush. We wanted to come back in the safest, healthiest way,” Mayer said. “Everything we did was based on that. We put in some very stringent protocols to ensure the safest scenario possible.”
That meant the creation of two “hub” cities, Edmonton and Toronto, to host an expanded 24-team playoffs. Once the cities were secured—as well as the arenas where the games would be played and the hotels where coaches, players, and staff would be housed— Mayer was able to focus on his next task: making the games an event without any fans. As a large part of his job is overseeing the league’s event department, Mayer was able to quickly come up with solutions.