The Saturday Slate is a weekly discussion or platform where members of Win Column Sports provide their respective opinions and thoughts on an event that took place in the prior week. Additionally, there is also a running pool amongst the contributors based on our picks for Saturday’s match-ups. This week, the Win Column panel discusses the NHL action on February 16th.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but, there are teams in the NHL who continually struggle to fill their seats regardless of the time of year or even the visiting team. Lots of people argue that a team performing well and winning most of their games helps attendance, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Take the New York Islanders for example. Although the Islanders are first in the Metropolitan the team ranks dead last in attendance with an average of 11,939 attendees, which rounds out to a 75.5% attendance rate. Correlating the performance of the team and attendance doesn’t tell the whole story, there are far more variables that must be accounted for such as location, ticket prices, and competition amongst other sports. With that being said, the panel will join the on-going conversation and provide their two cents on what they believe (if anything) could help a team perpetually struggling with attendance.
You can rattle off options until you’re blue in the face, but there are a couple of markets (Florida, Arizona, Carolina) where hockey will and will continue to fight an uphill battle. I don’t think there is a sure-fire way to try and improve attendance unless the team(s) itself improved exponentially and became perennial deep playoff teams, but even then, that isn’t a guarantee these days. I personally believe the best route of action would be finding new homes for these teams. We’ve already seen 2 expansion teams come to surface recently, what’s stopping a few relocations of underappreciated hockey clubs? There are plenty of markets that would be able to support this such a Quebec City, Saskatchewan and potentially other locations throughout the northern United States.
How does an NHL team reinvigorate an apathetic fan base? In some teams cases, how do you even initially inspire fans to care? The Vegas Golden Knights are a perfect example of a team that excels both on-and-off the ice. Yes, the team benefitted huge from reaching the Stanely Cup Finals in their inaugural season, but the pomp and circumstance surrounding the organization truly took the team’s fan support to the next level. Who can forget the gladiator-themed entrance prior to their first game at home of the SCF? To take it to another level, who can deny that the Carolina Hurricanes’ celebrations are some of the most joy-inspiring events in the NHL this season. Hell, look at the Edmonton Oilers; for a team in a hockey-mad city, an abysmal game-day experience has relegated the team to “selling out” Rogers Place with at least 3,000 empty seats in the arena on a nightly basis. Would that be the case if the famed Oil Derrick of old was to return? Perhaps not, but I can guarantee that fans would feel a hell of a lot less of their current apathy they feel around the team.
It doesn’t matter where you are, or where your attendance is, frankly - it’s all about the fan experience.
I agree with Carl: the Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) do it in Rogers Arena which they share with the Edmonton Oilers. They tarp off the top section that forces everybody into the lower bowl and creates a better environment. It doesn’t solve the actual attendance issue but masks it on TV.
I’m not a fan of people saying Florida is a market that won’t work when Tampa Bay is just down the interstate and practically sells out every game. It’s marketing and putting a good product on the ice. Vegas, as annoying as it can be, has created a game day environment that pertains to more than just a simple hockey fan and I think other markets that struggle such as Florida and Carolina need to create a better family game day experience outside of the realm of hockey to get fans in the stands.
Having recently attended my first NHL game in person, not in Calgary, I discovered that some teams actually put on a good game day experience. Visiting the Vegas Golden Knights in December I learned first hand what it’s like to put on a show around a hockey game. This is certainly easier when you’ve built it from scratch and have a full arena. No one wants to attend a party that is half full. That said, take an angle from the Carolina Hurricanes, that tried to fix that game day environment by moving people closer to the ice. If a team isn’t able to sell out an arena consistently, stopping trying to sell the entire arena. Shutting down the top rows of the stadium will fill it up down low and give a better environment. And some Duck Duck Goose after a win never hurt.
WinColumnSport’s Saturday Picks
|Red Wings @ Flyers||Flyers||Flyers||Flyers||Flyers|
|Flames @ Penguins||Penguins||Flames||Flames||Flames|
|Blues @ Avalanche||Blues||Avalanche||Blues||Blues|
|Oilers @ Islanders||Islanders||Oilers||Islanders||Islanders|
|Canadiens @ Lightning||Lightning||Lightning||Lightning||Lightning|
|Senators @ Jets||Jets||Senators||Jets||Jets|
|Maple Leafs @ Coyotes||Maple Leafs||Coyotes||Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs|
|Stars @ Hurricanes||Stars||Stars||Stars||Hurricanes|
|Blue Jackets @ Blackhawks||Blackhawks||Blackhawks||Blue Jackets||Blue Jackets|
|Predators @ Golden Knights||Predators||Predators||Predators||Predators|
|Canucks @ Sharks||Sharks||Sharks||Sharks||Sharks|
|Bruins @ Kings||Bruins||Bruins||Bruins||Bruins|
Records Thus Far:
- Ben: (101-82), Last Week: (8-6), Winning Percentage: (55%)
- Carl: (68-61), Last Week: (8-6), Winning Percentage (53%)
- Spencer: (95-88), Last Week: (10-4), Winning Percentage: (52%)
- Arik: (93-90), Last Week: (9-5), Winning Percentage: (51%)
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