NEW YORK, N.Y. - The NHL is hoping to turn U.S. Thanksgiving weekend into a hockey holiday as it did with New Year's Day.
Looking to build on the success of the Winter Classic, which has quickly become a New Year's staple, the NHL announced on Wednesday a renewal of a multi-year partnership with Discover.
The credit card company will become the title sponsor of this year's "Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown," which takes place on the traditional shopping-heavy Friday after the holiday.
The "Black Friday" matchup features the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings in an Original Six matchup on NBC.
Discover and the NHL will also debut a co-sponsored float during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC as part of promotion for the game.
"We are looking to build an entirely new platform around Thanksgiving and have it include not only a game broadcast but something more," said David Lehanski, the NHL's group vice-president of integrated sales. "That (parade) is chock full of the most iconic brands. To be a part of that for hockey is great."
U.S. Thanksgiving belongs to the NFL—in the sports world—much in the way U.S. college football has owned New Year's Day for generations. The 2012 Winter Classic, featuring the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, was bumped to Jan. 2 along with the bowl games because the NFL is playing a regular schedule the day before.
The NHL isn't taking on the NFL on Thanksgiving, either, but the league and Discover are aiming to give hockey fans an appetizer with the parade, heading into the featured Friday game.
"This was one of those ideas that had natural synergy," said Jennifer Murillo, the vice-president of brand communications for Discover. "The whole idea came together through the partnership.
"We know our card members are passionate hockey fans. As the idea materialized to create a new nationally televised game during Thanksgiving weekend, this was a natural extension for us."
The Thanksgiving Friday game begins NBC's coverage of the NHL for this season. It is the league's earliest start date on network TV since NBC acquired hockey broadcast rights in 2005.
An estimated 50 million U.S. viewers are expected to watch the parade on television.
"We're proud to work with our partners at the NHL and participate in some of America's favourite holiday traditions, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and watching a great hockey matchup on NBC," Murillo said.
The parade float, called "Frozen Fall Fun," will showcase the partnership between the NHL and Discover and include past NHL stars, a synthetic ice rink, a four-metre-tall turkey that serves as a hockey goal, and a colourful fall look.
Grammy Award winner Cee-Lo Green will perform live on the float.
"This is part of the overall strategy," Lehanski said. "The more events we can create, if they can be tied to holidays or high-level days when people are home watching television, if we can bring hockey to their faces, we're going to generate more fans."
Discover will offer card members the chance to redeem their Cashback Bonus rewards for tickets to the upcoming Winter Classic in Philadelphia, and card members will also receive discounts to Shop.NHL.com, the NHL Powered by Reebok store in New York, and NHL GameCenter Live subscriptions.
"Having a new ownership platform on a day that is synonymous with shopping was a natural fit to renew our partnership with Discover, but we wanted to make it even bigger," Lehanski said.
Discover will remain the official card of the NHL, all-star weekend, the Winter Classic, NHL awards, and the draft.
Canadian Thanksgiving had seven NHL games this year, including four afternoon starts. The Calgary Flames lost to the Blues 5-2 in St. Louis, Mo., and the Vancouver Canucks topped the Blue Jackets 3-2 in Columbus, Ohio.