NEW YORK: The National Hockey League has hired a small cadre of communications firms to help court fans following the pre-empted 2004-05 season.CarryOn Communications will handle strategic brand and consumer PR. Rogers & Cowan will handle entertainment PR. The firms will help reconnect the league with fans when the season starts next month. "We had been working on a relaunch campaign since we announced the cancellation, knowing that we would need to come back in a big way," said Bernadette Mansur, NHL group VP of communications. The initiative will include media relations, special events, unspecified non-traditional initiatives, and advertising. The first effort will be a media event during the third week in September, and the effort will continue throughout the 2005-06 season. The league has also hired PHD, a media planning firm, and Conductor, an LA-based entertainment and brand agency. Billings were undisclosed. The NHL described the effort as having an "entertainment-based, cinematic approach." R&C CEO Tom Tardio said his firm will mine the entertainment industry to place NHL players and products in movies and television shows, pitch players to lifestyle and non-sports media, and leverage award shows and charity events. "You have a dedicated fan base that has been starved of their team and league," said Kevin Grangier, CarryOn CEO. "The challenge is meeting that anticipation."