Here we go again. The Nashville Predators just cannot seem to stop themselves, and it is truly embarrassing. The Blackhawks are scheduled to play the Predators next Tuesday January 19th at the Bridgestone Arena. These two teams have developed a great rivalry, and the fans on both sides seem to enjoy the games and good-natured (mostly) smack talk.
Fact: Hossa's beard can benchpress the equivalent of one Predator. We now have video proof.
— Coach Q's mustache (@CoachQsMustache) January 13, 2016
Keep The Red Out Begins
However, if you are a Blackhawks fan thinking of going down to enjoy the great city of Nashville, its awesome nightlife and then catch the game, think again. Here is what just popped up on the Nashville website regarding the game: “To better serve Nashville Predators fans, a restricted sales area has been implemented for this Nashville Predator game at the Bridgestone Arena. Sales will be restricted to residents of the Nashville Predators viewing area – Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Residency will be based on credit card billing address. Orders by residents outside the viewing area will be cancelled without notice and refunds given.”
Okay, first of all, how many hockey fans are really in the hotbed area of Kentucky, Mississippi and Georgia? Do the Predators know something the NHL doesn’t? Secondly, it would seem that the way around this would be for Blackhawks fans to simply buy tickets on the secondary market. After all, they are likely going to be much cheaper than good seats at the United Center. Well, no sorry you cannot do that either. The Predators are also enforcing rules that require the original purchaser to provide the credit card used and a photo ID with matching name before allowing that fan into the arena. Better still, in research done by Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune, the Predators are not taking any similar measures against other games or fan bases. Wow – talk about being red with envy.
This so-called “Keep The Red Out” campaign against Chicago was apparently started in 2013. In an interview for ESPNChicago.com with Scott Powers, Predators Vice President of Hockey Communications and Public Relations Gerry Helper stated “Our objective is to give our team the best home ice advantage each and every game.” In the same interview Predators CEO Scott Henry added “Blackhawks fans are going to have to earn it. And they’re going to help us continue to grow our roster by building our revenue at the gate. It’s that simple. In the end, we’re building something pretty special. If we have to do it off the backs off their fans a little bit, I am not apologizing for it.”
The Blackhawks Model for Success
Apparently Mr. Henry thinks the Blackhawks are a model franchise that can help the Predators grow. I suppose imitation is the best form of flattery, right? But here’s the thing, the Blackhawks rise during the last ten years was based on smart drafting (Toews, Kane, Seabrook, Keith), great free agent acquisitions (Hossa), a top farm system (Crawford, Shaw, Hartman, Danault) and fantastic scouting (Panarin, Teravainen, van Riemsdyk, Darling). Oh yeah, Nashville actually had Darling and let him go last year. Oops that kinda bit them in the butt didn’t it?
Let us also not forget that Blackhawks Owner Rocky Wirtz also put home games on television, and hired John McDonough away from the Chicago Cubs in 2007, where he is now CEO. Of course, the Blackhawks also found stability in head coach Joel Quenneville, who is now signed through the 2019-2020 season. The Blackhawks also sport additional leadership stability in Stan Bowman who is in his 15th season with the team and his sixth as Vice President/General Manager. The Blackhawks also understand the emotional side of fan marketing, having started the “One Goal” campaign that still lives on today.
Lastly, there is the simple concept called winning. Nothing puts people in the seats, drives up revenues and creates buzz quite like winning. There are the obvious three Stanley Cups in six years, but the Blackhawks have also made the playoffs every year since 2009 and have been the Conference Finals 5 times during the same period. Mr Henry and Nashville, if you really want to fill your stadium with die-hard “Smashville” fans, try winning a playoff series or two consistently.
What do the Preds hate the most?
— Rebuild Blackhawks (@onegoal_oneteam) January 13, 2016
Restrictive Ticket Policies Bad for NHL
At the end of the day I am extremely embarrassed for both Nashville and the NHL. You see, the Predators are set to host the NHL All-Star game at the end of January – a game for the fans. The hypocrisy is obvious. If Henry wants to showcase how great Nashville is to visit, then don’t be all happy and talk with open arms that you welcome all fans. Because, the reality is you do not. Or, is it just Chicago fans that have you so freaked out? I have been to Nashville for a game, and the city and its bars/restaurants welcomed us and our hard-earned money. In speaking with servers, bar tenders, musicians and hotel staff, nearly all were and are frustrated with the efforts of the Predators to keep Chicago fans out.
I have been speaking out since 2013 that the NHL has a responsibility to prohibit restrictive ticket sales for any team/city desiring to host an NHL All Star Game, Winter Classic or Stadium Series game. This is about the NHL, and is a huge marketing opportunity for both the NHL and the host city to showcase hockey. The NHL could also step in and require that for such rivalries fans of opposing teams be provided with a block of tickets if they are worried about crowd issues in the stands. Unused tickets go back to the host team for resale.The model works great for soccer in Europe, so why not give it a try?
Specifically regarding the Predators, they wouldn’t even have to implement such a stupid policy if their own fans would consistently show up and fill the stadium without such gimmicks. Mr. Henry, ticket sales are revenue, beer sales are more money and tourism is good for the City (everyone is happy!). Isn’t that why you run the team in the first place? Without that revenue you cannot build the franchise into a consistent championship contender. The blueprint and model are right there for you to follow. The Blackhawks did by allowing every fan the opportunity to buy a ticket and see the greatest game in the world.
Nashville, you have made it clear that red is not your color. If only you understood the importance of green.
Rick is fortunate to live off the I-90 hockey corridor where both his beloved Chicago Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs (aka Baby Hawks) call home. Hockey has been in his blood since the early 1970’s when he saw his first Blackhawks game at the “Old Barn”. His favorite player is Keith Magnuson followed closely by Bobby Hull (old school!). When not covering the greatest sport, he enjoys watching live music and has even been known to join his beloved bands on stage for a song or two. Follow Rick on Twitter via @HawksStrength