America’s National Hockey League is said to be discussing a partnership with such top Japanese anime studios as Kyoto Animation, Madhouse and J.C. Staff in a deal which could see Azunyan and Kuroko promoted against the unlikely backdrop of gangs of burly men whacking each other with sticks.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman supposedly confirmed that the evidently desperate league has been discussing a partnership with Japanese animation studios:
“Everything we do is with one goal in mind – preserving and propagating the great sport of hockey, seeing that the best players in the world get the recognition they deserve, and thrilling the fans.”
However he was apparently very keen to emphasise the preliminary nature of these discussions:
“The reported negotiations are part of what is only one of a plethora of options on the table. Nothing is set in stone.”
No concrete details are known but Kyoto Animation, Madhouse, and J.C. Staff are purportedly involved in the discussions. The agreement itself would allow anime to be aired during intervals at games on television or at the arena, as well as the usual array of events and anime goods associated with such tie-ups. Studios for their part would each have to purchase a 10% stake in the league.
The partnership could commence as early as the next season.
The president of one team was less than enthused about the possible implications of the deal, and the fact that it was being discussed behind closed doors:
“When the owners are the last to hear about the potential sale of their team, there’s a problem. When fans are the last to hear about the possibility of their mascot being turned into a pink-haired girl, there’s a problem.”
A business professor who specializes in sports marketing asked to comment on the NHL’s chances with the “otaku” demographic was apparently rather positive however:
“Otaku a very dedicated bunch, and, more importantly, are a large demographic that intersects with current NHL viewers very little. If the NHL can turn the Otaku crowd into regular viewers, advertising for their games suddenly becomes much more lucrative.
That’s to say nothing for increased ticket sales. The League ownership would like nothing more right now than for gametime crowds to start looking like an anime convention.”
With US anime fans not known for their interest in sports, and with Japanese interest in ice hockey virtually nil, this is certainly an optimistic assessment – doubtless the report should be treated with the scepticism and incredulity it deserves until moeblobs do indeed appear over the bleachers.
Update: As seemed far from unlikely, the story’s publisher has retracted it as having no basis in fact.