Stop Trying To Steal Our Cake Simmons!

Via twitter Steve Simmons, a spots columnist for the Toronto Sun, expressed that in his perfect world Nashville, Florida, Atlanta, Columbus, New York Islanders, and Phoenix would be eliminated, leaving with 24 teams. Clearly this list includes several troubled franchises that have suffered from finance and attendance issues of late. Several of these teams have also been incredibly bad for an extended period of time. One of these teams has not been bad for some time and has only seen rises in attendance since the lockout.

Us Nashville Predators fans are an understandably sensitive lot when it comes to media and other fans attack the existence of our team. During the recent playoff run we were treated to a nice period where the NHL go to see what hockey is like in Nashville, and everyone was shown that the team was set in a hockey city. Still, we’ve dealt with comments like Simmons’ before, so it’s nothing to get worked up about. At least, that is until he asks one of the questions that drives me crazy:
“If the Preds had six straight years out of the playoffs, would they still sell tickets?”
That is a deceptive and just plain silly thing to ask. A popular saying in the NHL fan circles is, “if you put a good team on the ice, then people will buy tickets.” Simmons is basically asking Predators fans what would happen if Poile stopped doing what he’s done so well and then went about signing players like he were running the New York Rangers. To put it another way, if any service or product is proven subpar, then no one is going to buy it. In the world of professional sports, the only reason that certain franchises succeed in spite of their failure to produce on the ice/field/court is due to allegiance and fanaticism.

Most Canadian teams have not had to deal with such issues because hockey is part of the culture as it has been for well over a hundred years. The same applies, to a lesser extent, to many other northern cities were hockey was already being played. Starting those franchises in these places was like opening a new church in Chattanooga’s Hamilton County. If you remove the fanaticism from the equation, teams have to provide a product that people want to consume. In successful “non-traditional” markets there is the opportunity to build such a following by doing what the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars have done, which is bringing hockey to the community. You combine a front office whose goal is long-term stability through quality of product and service as well as strong brand awareness and connection with the consumers and you start to reach towards consumer devotion. At that point you can hold onto the fan base during non-playoff years.

So, would ticket sales decline if the Preds were struggling to win on the ice? Yes, and that is just as true on Long Island as it is in Colorado and Detroit.

Ok, here is my qualifier: Yeah, Simmons was just saying in his fantasy world this is how it would be, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the right to respond, especially if he issues a challenge to Preds fans like he did.

Also, the Predators had better regular season attendance numbers than a Sunbelt team that didn’t make the list, the Tampa Bay Lightning. What is up with that?

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