"Increasingly, scholars and (public relations) practitioners are defining public relations as relationship management" (Ledingham and Bruning, 1998). In an effort to further corporate credibility and fulfill societal responsibilities, businesses are implementing organizational community relations. The NHL and other major league sports are masters of community relations and relationship management.
Relationship management, or community relations, is when there is a balance in the relationship between business and stakeholders. In other words, both parties invest time and effort into the other, both parties are committed to the relationship, and both parties are conscious of all actions benefitting the relationship (Ledingham and Bruning, 1998). Through its charity involvement and fan interaction, NHL teams are excelling in all areas of community relations.
In an effort to promote new and existing relationships with fans, it is not uncommon to witness NHL athletes pursuing charity work. NHL players are known for their countless hospital visitations and donation of time to various charities such as the Diabetes Foundation, March of Dimes, and Christmas toy drives. Due to a surge in Cancer among players and referees, the NHL officially adopted the American Cancer Society as a league charity. It was heavily promoted in the All-Star game and playoffs of 1999 and 2000.
NHL teams also enjoy making their presence known throughout their communities. Mascots, player autograph sessions, and other events are hosted annually to involve fans in team activities. It is a unique opportunity for fans to meet and talk with their favorite players, and for children to gain a hug from an elusive mascot. Often such experiences are a result of charity dinners, carnivals, and other events hosted by the teams and athletes. Proceeds are always forwarded on to local charities.