The inspiration for this article came about as I was perusing the blogosphere brimming with critics lamenting the NHL’s decision to create its latest expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights. Most of what I read was petty grievances but a few complaints had some merit and are worthy of a response.
One complainer, citing the Arizona Coyotes as an example, asked the question, “How can an NHL team expect to be successful in an area not suitable for ice hockey?” Another asked, “Why should the NHL be expanding at all when there are at least five teams already struggling to sell tickets?”
In Columbus, for example, rumor has it they’re singing the blues because the fans are obsessed with Ohio State and it’s hard to refocus their attention iceward. In sleepier markets, potential fans would rather relax at home than make the trip to their local hockey arena.
Regardless, I would remind doubters that Vegas is unlike any other place on earth. I can think of three different target audiences that are ripe for the picking when it comes to cultivating a full house at T-Mobile Arena. Can ya hear me now? (Oops wrong cellular network.)
Target Market #1 – the Tourists
In Vegas, people are in entertainment mode as soon as they step off at McCarran airport. Can you imagine a wealthy tourist from let’s say, China, not wanting to experience a professional hockey match? Sure, it’s doubtful they’d be interested in flying all the way to Pittsburgh or Detroit just to see one, but if they’re already in Vegas, why wouldn’t they go? For many tourists, it may be their first opportunity to see a live NHL game.Now, with a zillion casinos and live shows already out there to choose from, there are hockey detractors who contend that the Golden Knights will get buried beneath all the noise. But I would counter with this:
Not everyone gets excited by watching a white tiger pussyfooting around a pair of bedazzled animal trainers, nor does everyone get excited by watching an aging rock star prancing about the stage. I don’t mean to badmouth these kinds of shows as there is a time and place for everything – it’s just that there is something universally appealing about watching a proper thug skate furiously at another and crash him into the boards.
Even if they don’t understand the nuances of the game and are instead fascinated by the sights and sounds of men crashing into each other, hey, every new hockey fan has to start somewhere. A billionaire tourist from China would just as happily enjoy such a spectacle as a blue-collar casino worker getting off his shift. And that brings up the next target audience:
Target Market #2 – the Locals
Clark County consists of approximately two million residents, a sizable portion of whom can regularly make the trip rinkside. Yes, the Golden Knights’ marketing and PR people will be tasked with hoisting their brand above the noise and fanfare to attract enough eyeballs to their offering, but with the possibility of all kinds of package deals that can be woven in with corporate outings and hotel accommodations, I just can’t see attendance from these sectors being a problem.
Target Market #3 – the Away Team’s Fans
Am I supposed to believe that anyone who can afford the trip to Vegas won’t be champing at the bit for an excuse to support the local team? Just imagine the nearby Los Angeles Kings. Good seats will be hard to come by anytime the Kings come to town – as if us Angelenos need another excuse to go to Vegas.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) September 1, 2017
Regardless of the blogosphere and negative YouTube videos out there, I think bringing hockey to Vegas is a brilliant move by owners Bill Foley and the Maloof family. I will be there every chance I get.
See ya soon, Sin City!
I grew up the son of a football coach in West Texas and played the Big Three sports early on but later switched to golf. I attended the University of Southern California and played briefly on the California Golden State Tour and the Texas Tour. I was also a golf instructor in Prague, Czech Republic and in Zurich, Switzerland. Favorite job was with Clear Channel Radio’s Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 show. While there I was fortunate enough to have weekly chats with sportscaster, Vic “The Brick” Jacobs. Still living in Los Angeles as a humble and fastidious student of Beer League Hockey, a supporter of the Ontario Reign, and of course, a rabid fan of the newly minted Golden Knights.