NHL: More Canadian Hockey, S'il Vous Plait
As an American, I probably shouldn't even like hockey, but here I am, and there we are. I watch quite a bit of sports, and here in the States, football is king, hands down.
But ask any Puck-o-phile and they'll tell you the same thing: other sports don't measure up. Sure, there's the occasional mismatch that ends in a drubbing, but even those games keep you hooked. What's better than a bench-clearing brawl? More bench-clearing brawls.
But nothing on this earth infuriates me more than southern U.S. hockey teams. With sincerest apologies to the real fans down in Dixie, many of these spectators go to these games as a night out. An alternative to movie night. To spend time with long-lost friends.
While there is nothing wrong with this per se (ticket sales are ticket sales), this is a massive sleight to Canadians. This is their sport. This is their game. This is what they bleed for.
I understand market demographics. I get that Hamilton, ON (metro area Pop. < 700,000) is smaller than Nashville, TN (metro area Pop. >1,500,000).
I also, however, see that the Predators made the playoffs (and nearly defeated the eventual-champion Red Wings in a first-round series), and still managed to attract only 14,910 fans per home game, fourth worst in the league.
When Jim Balsillie tried to buy the team (to move to Hamilton), the season ticket drive for a prospective team netted 13,000 season ticket deposits, as opposed to Nashville's 9,000 season ticket holders.
That's right. An invisible, imaginary, purely speculative team increased season ticket holdership for an NHL franchise by 4,000.
I think there may be an issue here.
When player salaries increased in the 1990's, Canadian teams took losses harder than their American counterparts, and Winnipeg and Quebec lost their franchises.
But now hockey is getting back in the public eye. The Winter Classic has gotten people who otherwise ignore hockey to get involved. That's a step in the right direction.
But I guess players might enjoy the southern slush they play on come spring. Right?
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