NEW YORK — When I arrived at the new offices of the NHL in Manhattan on Nov. 10, the ominous facade of the building had me imagining dark and evil internal machinations.
I imagined overbearing leaders, suffering workers, sterile gray spaces and a general feeling of oppression and hopelessness.
I expected to be greeted in every public space by loops of video of the high chancellor from “V for Vendetta,” threatening crackdowns on players and punishment for underperforming workers while instilling an overwhelming culture of intimidation and fear.
When I arrived at the reception desk on the ground floor, however, my amusing narrative died. I was 15 minutes early for my scheduled tour with NHL Senior Vice President of Communications John Dellapina, but a delightful woman greeted me and told me that I would want to wait up in the NHL’s lobby because it’s “really cool and the views are amazing.”
She was right. The NHL moved into its new offices a little more than a year ago, which provided me convenient cover for somehow not touring the old place in my two decades-plus of Coyotes coverage. I have no idea what I missed with the old place, but the new set-up is well worth a tour.
The league’s new digs comprise about 160,000 square feet and five floors of the 67-story building One Manhattan West. The NHL also leases about 15,000 square feet to house an NHL Store in the central retail corridor of the neighborhood.
You’ll have to look past my horrid phone photography, but you’ll appreciate the Coyotes gear in the window. I’d like to think that they knew I was coming, but that would be assigning far too much importance to my visit in what was a bustling thoroughfare that also includes a skating rink in the appropriate months. The local merch probably had more to do with the fact that the Coyotes were in town to play the Rangers.
Dellapina admitted that COVID-19 made the grand opening of the league’s new space a bit anticlimactic. Many workers were working from home, leaving the shiny new offices a ghost town for the first several months of their existence.
That has changed. The staff has returned and the league is eager to show off its multi-level home, whose floors are connected by an internal staircase over which hang video boards on different levels, capturing historic moments like the Avs’ Stanley Cup win last season.
As we walked through the various workspaces, I noticed a ton of team-specific paraphernalia displayed on many of the individual cubicles. While NHL staff is expected to be professional in any public or external dealings, Dellapina said that fandom is encouraged within the office.
I saw evidence of Coyotes fans. I saw plenty of Rangers merchandise and, of course, I saw Gritty, appropriately displayed on a makeshift pedestal.
Beyond the public spaces, Dellapina took me into some of the spaces in which content or decisions are made.
We toured NHL Player Safety’s nerve center. We toured the NHL’s North American and international offices where content is created for NHL.com, and where I met assignment editor Barry Rubinstein, who probably cringed when I tweeted an overview of my visit with a bad typo in it. We toured the studio from which NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman often broadcasts, and we got a look at one of the board rooms in which the league holds meetings.
The NHL’s offices are lined with homages to the game’s history. There are photos of icons such as Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky, the top two goal scorers in league history (for now).
There are replicas of the Stanley Cup engravings of each winning team’s name, the year in which they won, and the names on the roster and staff. Those replica engravings come complete with errors, misspellings (Ilanders, second row from right, fifth engraving from the bottom), and names that have been removed from the Cup for various reasons (for the 1983-84 Cup win, Oilers owner Peter Pocklington included the name of his father, Basil Pocklington, who was unaffiliated with the team. After the NHL learned of the move, it ordered the name removed. The name is now covered by a string of 16 Xs).
Along with the nods to history, the NHL office also has fun spaces. There’s even a bubble hockey game room enclosed in glass and adjacent to the lobby.
Like any reporter would, I wanted a look at the offices of the head honchos as well. Dellapina is a former journalist. He understood.
While Gary Bettman had left the day before I arrived to spend a couple of weeks in Florida with his family, deputy commissioner Bill Daly was there and invited me into his office to chat for a few minutes.
Look, there’s obviously plenty to do in Manhattan, but as a lifelong hockey fan, I’m glad I took time out on the Coyotes’ recent road trip to see the league office. It’s a great space populated by lots of great people. It was nice to connect faces to the many names with whom I have corresponded over the years, and the visit allowed me to check one more thing off of my professional bucket list.