Could re-alignment mitigate 'othering' of non-traditional markets?

Discussion in 'Fugu's Business of Hockey Forum' started by Buck Aki Berg, Jan 10, 2011.

  1. Buck Aki Berg

    Buck Aki Berg Done with this place

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    Before I get started, I just want to say that this isn't intended to be a bash-the-southern-teams thread, nor is it intended to be a here's-what-I-think-the-best-alignment-would-be-thread, where everyone offers their own suggestions and the thread just gets bogged down with pages and pages of the most asinine alignments that the brains of HF can concoct. I also hope that there's enough meat to this topic in a business context that it doesn't get bumped to the main board where the two things that I don't want to happen with this thread will most certainly happen.

    **

    Quite often, the southern teams are villianized for losing money, taking the place of a market that would appreciate the team, being a drain on the league's resources, and are generally perceived to be a very distant fourth of the Big Four sports in these markets. This villianization even goes so far as openly cheering for the failure and relocation of these teams (by those who have lost their teams and know how awful it feels, no less), which is quite possibly the most unsportsmanlike behaviour a fan can participate in. Moreover, these teams are generally poor draws on the road, with the Thrashers, Predators, and Ducks being the only "Sunbelt teams" (using the term loosely - I know it's a charged term, so don't jump on me over what is and isn't a Sunbelt team) cracking the top 20 in road attendance in 2009-10

    The separation of northern and southern teams, and the mentality that this split causes, benefits nobody. The owners lose money because they can't fill their barn when these teams come to town, and the fans get at each others' throats over a perceived 'right to have a hockey team'.

    A lot of this, I think, has to do with the southern teams being placed in their own divisions, away from teams with more history (yes, I know that Washington and Los Angeles have been around for 35-40 years, and that the Ducks/Hurricanes/Lightning/Stars have all won cups). I think the most obvious example is Los Angeles - nobody questions the legitimacy of an NHL team in Los Angeles because they spent much of the 70s in the same division as Montreal and Detroit, and most of the 80s in the same division as the western Canadian teams. Meanwhile, even some of the most successful teams (on and off the ice) still stuggle to be seen as "legitimate hockey markets".

    That said, could re-alignment so that northern and southern teams share divisions and compete more directly for playoff spots - and face each other in the playoffs more often - help to mitigate the mentality of traditionalists? Would these teams draw better on the road, instead of being brushed off as "a game not worth going to"?

    Spinning this in the other direction - some will point out that the Senators and Oilers share the bottom ten in terms of road attendance with many of the sunbelt teams. Could realignment that makes divisional rivals out of the cities that are historically poor draws for these teams help increase their visibility/profile on the road, as opposed to being seen as a forgettable game against a forgettable opponent?
     
  2. Fugu

    Fugu Guest

    I was hoping there was a question in there somewhere. First two-thirds sounded like you were on a soap box. (And don't be surprised if some of that gets parsed and dissected since it's stated as fact. ;))


    I think what has driven alignment in the past has been (1) cost of travel, and (2) someone's notion that rivalries are created by proximity. Battles of Alberta, NY or Ontario, for example. As a Wings fan, I categorically deny that this is the basis for a great rivalry. Detroit doesn't have a real rival these days, but outside traditional foes like Chicago or Toronto, the most recent have been Colorado, Anaheim and Pittsburgh-- all created through playoff battles.

    I also have asked, when the subject of schedules and alignments have come up, why Detroit is 'bearing' the burden of carrying the West mostly alone? I think one of the biggest obstacles to moving them has been the idea that DRW is a huge road draw and has some capital as an O-6 team. Moving them to the East would leave only Chicago of that group. I personally think it would be very fair to even out the scheduling so everyone shares in the joys and pains of Western and Eastern road swings, but also exposes all fans to all markets-- O-6 included. Yes, get the Habs, Rangers, Bruins, and Leafs out their cocoons. You also get teams like Pittsburgh and Washington out a bit more, seeing that's where the league has invested its marketing dollars. Rather pointless if you rarely see those teams play.

    I like the idea, but then, I always have preferred a more balanced schedule & travel, and this may be one way of accomplishing the same thing.
     
  3. tarheelhockey

    tarheelhockey Highest Boss

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    This is more-or-less what I was trying to express in the "Restructure the NHL" thread. Needless to say, I agree with the concept. There is a segregation of sorts in the way the league is split up geographically, where you have divisions like the Northeast and Northwest with 3 or more O6/Canadian clubs, as compared to the Southeast and Pacific which are stocked with southern expansion teams. It doesn't take an MBA to figure out that revenue flow is going to be affected by that setup.

    IMO, I think MoreOrr had it right in the other thread -- the conferences should be non-geographic. It's understandable for travel and rivalry purposes to have geographic divisions, but each region should be shared by both conferences and the geographic "reach" of each division should be larger. That's the solution to balancing it all out.
     
  4. cbcwpg

    cbcwpg Registered User

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    Years back the NHL did have a balanced schedule, so all teams played all teams the same number of times as well as at home and on the road. This to me was perfect from a fans point of view. It didn't matter if I lived in Toronto or Los Angeles, I got to see every team in the NHL in my barn at least once. I always got to see the original 6 which are always a good draw, but I also got to see the best teams at the time.

    But like all things in the NHL, it was changed to the current format ( NOT because of making new rivalries ) because of cost. Maybe if the NHL teams not only shared revenue but travels costs as well, we could go back to a balanced schedule.
     
  5. Fugu

    Fugu Guest

    I've put this forward a few times. It is unfair to the farther-flung teams as they may end up traveling, in terms of miles, 2-3x as much as the NE quadrant. Since they all have to have someone to play, is it unreasonable to make travel (at least the jet fuel and air charter type things) a set but shared cost item, like the officiating and discipline items?
     
  6. MoreOrr

    MoreOrr B4

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    I knew immediately that you'd be onboard with Haymaker. If the OP didn't have his name on it, I'd have for sure thought this thread was started by you. You've been saying for quite some time that the non-traditional markets should somehow be intermixed, in Divisions, with the more established markets, in order to create more rivalry interest in those non-traditional NHL cities.

    I'm not 100% sure that such a scheme would resolve anything with respect to interest in hockey and attendance to games in the not-long established NHL cities, but if there is evidence that shows that when teams with NHL history come to town there is generally higher attendance to games, then that's certainly supports the argument. My question would be, Why is that the case? Since these are mostly "southern" cities, I suppose it could be a case of transplanted northern hockey fans who have desire to see teams that they grew up with. Because really, if someone isn't a long-time hockey fan then why should it matter where a particular team is from. I would think that fans would be more interested in 'headline' players and teams that are currently playing the strongest hockey in the League. That and of course the teams that their team is in direct compeition with within the Division.

    Nevertheless, you'd think it would serve the League well to have a solid basis of NHL history in both Conferences, if not in fact in each Division. Putting all or almost all of the established teams in certain Divisions and most of 'newer' teams in their own Divisions seems like a very poor mix.

    There should also be something said for 'geographical proximity'. Bigger rivalries, which generally entail greater interest, are usually maintained between those teams which are geographically near to each. Sure, other rivalries come about, and last for some time, but the ones that endure are usually between geographically close teams... teams in which in many cases the fans of both can frequently attend the other teams home games.
     
  7. MoreOrr

    MoreOrr B4

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    (I see it as exactly the opposite. ... WRONG!) The teams in Divisions that are geographically compact would see it as being unfair to them to have to play more games against "far-flung" teams. Any road-trips to teams in the 'west' must be hell because you are flying all over the map. Whereas a road-trip to teams in the northeastern section of the NHL map entails perhaps two long flights... the flight there, and the flight back. During the road-trip between teams, the travel must seem like a piece of cake compared, for many of the 'western' teams, to travel to teams within their own Divisions.

    Edit: After third reading... It appears that I Don't think the opposite but instead the same.

    Since the League has revenue sharing anyway, one would think that 'cost-sharing' should also be factored in. But with respect to "cost", why should there be the "have's" and the "have nots"... those which have greater expenses and those that don't have great travel expenses? Travel expenses should be split more evenly at the front end, not at the tail end.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  8. mouser

    mouser Business of Hockey

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    It's an interesting idea. Would probably help if we had some figures on how those numbers vary from team to team. I'm guessing the worst case teams have travel/accommodation expenses somewhere in the $3m-$5m per year range based on some of the figures cited in the bankruptcy documents.
     
  9. tarheelhockey

    tarheelhockey Highest Boss

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    This is just anecdotal, so take it for what it's worth...

    The first live hockey games I ever saw were with my best friend who transplanted from Michigan. He had Yzerman and Fedorov posters on his wall, so those were the first players I ever knew by name. When we played NHL 94 or 95, he was always the Red Wings and I would often be the Red Wings too. The only other team I knew of by then were the NY Rangers, because they were big at the time. So, to start, I was a Wings fan by default.

    Once I got to the point where I started attending ECHL games, I became a Bruins fan... because that was where the home team (Charlotte) was affiliated. So, for the long term, I became a Bruins fan and still consider them my "first team" by longetivity.

    In '97 the Hurricanes went to Greensboro. The only game I saw there was against the Bruins. I paid them some attention over the years but never really grew attached. I went to a couple more Bruins/Canes games there, and also saw the Bruins in Atlanta and Nashville.

    Last year, I moved to Raleigh and finally got on the Canes bandwagon in full. Bought partial season tickets, and the first thing I did was trade two games (Thrashers and Islanders) to get tickets to see the Bruins.

    Again this is all anecdotal, but stories like mine should help explain some of the attendance patterns. Generally speaking, the big-name teams and older teams will have larger crowds just based on the fact they are more established and well-known than even the successful expansion teams.

    PS - I'm raising my 3 boys as Hurricanes fans and I don't expect the two younger ones to have any interest in the Bruins. So from my household the Canes have a 50/50 fan in the short-term and 3 hardcore fans in the long-term. I expect most of the expansion markets to develop along those lines as the generations pass.
     
  10. cbcwpg

    cbcwpg Registered User

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    No costs, but here are mileage figures.

    http://www.ontheforecheck.com/2009/7/16/950950/how-much-does-your-favorite-team

    Without knowing expenses, it would be a fair assumption that it costs Vancouver more to travel than say Boston.
     
  11. Fidel Astro

    Fidel Astro Registered User

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    Is road attendance the real problem a lot of the southern teams are facing, though? It seems to me that their home numbers are far more concerning. Is the presence of an Original Six team, for example, enough to draw fans out of their apathy?

    A team like the Leafs, for example, is going to have a full house no matter who the visiting team is. If the divisions changed and the Leafs hosted the Coyotes (for example) regularly throughout the season...the Toronto crowd would still be just as huge. Would the Leafs visiting Phoenix make a significant impact on the crowd at the Jobing arena?

    I don't know that they would.
     
  12. MoreOrr

    MoreOrr B4

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    I think the point is more about being in cities where the visiting teams, due to the Division alignment, are primarily teams that the fans don't have much interest in.

    We all know that Toronto is "hockey town"... but would Maple Leaf fans be truly equally as interested if a major proportion of Leaf games were played against Columbus, Nashville, Minnesota, and Carolina? I tried to pick teams that are at least not too geographically removed from Toronto.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  13. Fidel Astro

    Fidel Astro Registered User

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    They might not be as excited as if it was Leafs v. Habs, because there's not that long-term rivarly factor, but I still think they'd have no trouble selling out the arena.

    What I was trying to ask is whether a visiting Original Six team is enough of a draw to seriously improve attendance in struggling cities.
     
  14. MoreOrr

    MoreOrr B4

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    I shouldn't be arguing that point myself, but I think the idea is that if you put Atlanta, for instance, in a Division with Detroit and Toronto, that not only would it give the fans two teams that might be of more interest for many to see, but also it could give the Division a whole different dynamic that might be more appealing to certain fans. Then any game, against any team in the Division, is an opportunity to gain points on or move further ahead of Detroit and/or Toronto in that Division. It's like, 'we're in a Division with the history of the League, and each and every team in that Division is competing to some degree more directly with that history. Hell, I don't know, I'm speculating.

    But there is this point, which follows directly from what you said about Leafs fans... If Toronto would have strong attendance no matter what teams were part of its Division, then why not make the Divisions more attractive for the teams in which it could matter?
     
  15. tarheelhockey

    tarheelhockey Highest Boss

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    Just as an example, the Red Wings play to 100.1% attendance on the road. The Blackhawks play to 97.7%. So having those 2 teams in the same division virtually guarantees 6 sellouts per year for the other teams. Which is a good thing because the other teams in that division are 3 of the 4 lowest-attended road teams, suggesting their home-team product is not particularly strong.

    Another example of the effect it could have: Tampa drew 17,200 for Pittsburgh on a Wednesday night in October. They drew 15,800 against their "rival" Florida on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving. Obviously they aren't selling out in either case, but that 1,500 ticket difference is very noticeable considering the day-of-week factor. If Pittsburgh was in their division, they would add another strong date (and subtract a weak date) plus have 3 good TV dates compared to the weak ones they likely get for Florida.

    By no means am I suggesting this is a cure-all as it's obviously a fringe issue compared to some other things. But it's a factor when we think about realignment, as it directly affects the product on the ice for the teams involved. IMO, a big part of this is the re-introduction of divisional playoffs which would guarantee the formation of real rivalries.
     
  16. CGG

    CGG Registered User

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    I think far too much importance is given to the road team in these attendance numbers. Montreal has the biggest arena in the league. Montreal is almost always a sellout. Therefore, your team's "road attendance" is somewhat proportional to the number of road games played in Montreal.

    Montreal never plays a road game in Montreal, therefore their total potential road attendance is automatically lower than other teams.

    I think you'll find 90% + of paying attendance is actually there for the home team, the road team is largely irrelevant.
     
  17. Dado

    Dado Guest

    This statement being true..

    Makes this statement not-true...

    There is nothing "most unsportsmanlike" about wanting meaningful rivalries for your team.
     
  18. DeathToAllButMetal

    DeathToAllButMetal Let it all burn.

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    I already have pretty much zero interest in watching Tampa, Columbus, Florida, Atlanta, etc. Put some of these clubs into divisions with older clubs and Canadian clubs and I'd watch less. The solution to me with these clubs is simply to contract them.
     
    Last edited by moderator : Jan 12, 2011
  19. MoreOrr

    MoreOrr B4

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    I have a very different perspective. I admit that I don't like far southern teams, but for the most part I have trouble hating them, partly I'm sure because they're not in the Division with Boston nor has Boston had to compete against them frequently in the Playoffs. But I can say with certainty that if Tampa Bay and or Florida were in the same Division as the Bruins, I'd certainly hate those teams more, and I'd certainly care more in every game that they'd play against the Bruins. (Now the problem for me is that due to where I live I don't get to see the Bruins play at home, but I'm saying what I know would be my reality if I were able to attend Bruins games.)

    In fact I would challenge you, that if you had some of those teams you mention in the Division with your team, and those teams were doing well in the Division and well against your team, that you would in fact care and you would develop a hate-interest in those teams
     
  20. tarheelhockey

    tarheelhockey Highest Boss

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    I remember despising Florida when they knocked the Bruins out of the playoffs back in '96. Playoff rivalries are by far and away the most important factor.
     
  21. Dado

    Dado Guest

    Believing that the league would be better off without certain teams or as many teams is not the same as "hating".
     
  22. DeathToAllButMetal

    DeathToAllButMetal Let it all burn.

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    No, I really wouldn't. I've never gotten used to the Leafs moving to the East because of all the crap games with Florida, Tampa, Washington, New Jersey, etc. Even with the rivalry the Leafs had going with the Devils a few years back, I still couldn't care less about watching a Leafs-Devils game. OTOH, I'll always do whatever I can to make sure I see the Leafs in Calgary, Edmonton, or Vancouver, despite never having any sort of serious rivalry with those clubs.

    It's not just that these teams are southern, either, like with my NJ example. It's that they're generally such awful franchises with zero fan support. How can I care about watching the Leafs play Florida, for instance, when people in Florida couldn't give a damn? Turn a game on down there and see 7,000 people in the stands? Doesn't do much to make me feel like it's a big game I need to watch.

    Also, as much as people here are saying the Leafs always sell out at home no matter what? True, but the games against Tampa, Florida, etc. are always the crap games that STH holders sell off or give away. Start loading the schedule with more of those games, you are going to piss some of those people off.
     
  23. Killion

    Killion Registered User

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    Sure hope your not on TV Azteca & have Satellite MoreOrr, otherwise the only ice you'll ever be seeing on the tube is in a cocktail on Bodas de Odio or El Maleficio. :laugh:
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  24. tarheelhockey

    tarheelhockey Highest Boss

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    The difference being, in Toronto there is enough market pressure to keep those pissed-off people buying tickets. In Miami, there's not. People just say "screw it, I'll buy tickets for only the handful of games I actually want".
     
  25. MoreOrr

    MoreOrr B4

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    No, they're not the same, but both can be true.

    Seems as though you're saying that you can only hate a team based on the number of fans it has.
     

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