I am not one to defend the Chicago Blackhawks, and they are far and away my least favorite team in sports; however, the Predators plan to "keep the red out" when the Blackhawks come to town has forced me to do just that.
(A little backstory: the Predators put in a plan this week to limit sales of when the two teams play in Nashville this year to residents within certain local zip codes, also forcing each person who buys a ticket to the game to also buy a ticket to another game. A more extensive explanation:
Here are a few of the many, many, reasons why this plan won’t work and is most likely to backfire.
· The Blackhawks fan base, while mostly extraordinarily annoying "bro" types wearing Toews (pronounced like "toes", I am told) jerseys with tags and stickers still on them, is good for the NHL. The fourth largest consumer market in the NHL – a sport I remind you is trying to "grow" – is a good thing financially and growth-wise for the league, and will be a large part of fan expansion in the league for years to come. (This is despite a decent number of Blackhawks "fans" that have already put their jerseys straight in the closet to collect dust eternally, which will coincidentally contribute a similar amount of leadership and scoring to the Blackhawks as Jonathan Toews’ actual 2013 playoff jersey.)
· The Predators are Gary Bettman’s only "successful" expansion team. Take that in for a second. The Predators – compared to the dumpster fires known as the Thrashers, Coyotes, and Blue Jackets – are a success. Taking what has been a middling team with mediocre (at best) attendance (23rd of 30 teams in 2012) and imposing rules that will make it both harder and more expensive to attend games, doesn’t make sense. Imposing any ticket restrictions are a bad idea for the Preds, because, well, they don’t really have a fan base as is, and actively limiting growth through vindictive ticket politics won’t help anyone except the resale ticket market.
· Developing a good product will always be the best way to sell tickets and build an real, permanent fan base; anything ignoring that is actively avoiding the real issue. This is simple, but many people don’t seem to understand it. You can impose the strictest ticket rules you want, but good luck selling out a building to Nashville locals with a team composed of Shea Weber and a bunch of no-names dressed in the worst jerseys in the NHL that coincidently can’t score. Also, adding two mediocre 30+ year old role players to four year deals isn’t exactly going make Nashville fall in love like Andrew Shaw at a family reunion; just like changing how you buy Grown Ups 2 tickets won’t make that movie a success, nor keep Duncan Keith from seeing it a half dozen times.
· Blackhawks fans are still going to buy the tickets, they just won’t be giving most of the money to the Predators. "You know who’s not making enough money? Stubhub!" – Sean Henry, apparently. The only people that benefit from this policy is Stubhub and scalpers. The tickets on the resale ticket market may well cost twice as much as buying them from the Preds, but they’ll still likely be half the price of Blackhawks tickets in Chicago. So, Blackhawks fans will pay twice the money for the same tickets, and the Preds won’t see any of extra dollars of that.
· Blackhawks fans that actually buy tickets from the Preds will buy the extra ticket, then sell the second ticket or just not go because no one in Nashville wants to see the Preds play the (insert team that’s not Detroit or Chicago here). By keeping "the red out", this may keep the..uh…mustard(???) out as well. The price of buying the two tickets together simply may cost more than one ticket on the resale market, and the second ticket may not be able to be sold. So, enjoy those empty seats.
· This plan will INCREASE the number of Blackhawks fans at Preds games. Much like the Predators other famously stupid idea – exchanging Red Wings jerseys for Preds jerseys – this is just going to rile up a bigger fan base and motivate them more than ever to come and wreak havoc in Nashville. (If that is why Sean Henry is actually doing this – to cultivate a rivalry – he’s a mad genius. I’m certain that’s not the case, though.)
· There are really simple and better ways to do this. To accomplish similar goals, the Predators could require a mailing address and tickets to be mailed before buying tickets, then charge a premium to addresses in the state of Illinois (increasing revenue) and limit those tickets to specific seats and specific numbers ("reducing red"). It would work this way, because they could establish a ticket price above the price of a Preds ticket for local fans but below the resale market. This would create a preference to pay the premium to the Preds for Blackhawks fans that act quickly enough to swipe the limited number of tickets available in that area code, while forcing anyone else who wants to come to pay the increased premium from the resale market. They could also do this in cooperation with local Nashville hotels and its Chamber of Commerce to sell a "hockey vacation" where the people who do come down from Chicago have the option to buy a bundled package including a hotel room, etc, to help the city and create further revenues for the franchise while helping Nashville businesses.
As Red Wings fans, we can understand why Nashville would want to keep thousands of mouth-breathing bandwagon "fans" out of their fair city. Trust me, even in Chicago most people wish they didn’t have Blackhawks "fans"; but, this is an extraordinarily bad plan that simply won’t work. It also has simple alternatives that will achieve most of the same objectives while not isolating fans, making the resale market richer, or making the situation worse, all while helping the economy of the city of Nashville.
In addition, the vast majority of the sporting events I’ve seen have been outside of Detroit, because I haven’t lived anywhere near Detroit for the recent history of my life. If we support plans like this and provide lip service to them, we are jeopardizing our own opportunity to see our favorite teams simply because we live in the market of a middling team with vindictive and short-sighted management.
So, I ask of you, side with Chicago just this once; because next time, it could be Detroit.
Follow me on Twitter: @HeyTJWeber