Reader and guest week is off and running at Canes and Coffee. In addition to this great guest article, the first reader article from David Miller today can also be found HERE.
About the Author
Bob Wage (Twitter=@CanesEdge) has been writing hockey-related articles for over 10 years and has contributed to sites such as The Hockey News, The Fourth Period, and Fadoo.com. He is most noted for his creation and management of CanesCountry.com as well as its successful partnering and alliance with SBNation.com. Wage is currently working on Canes Edge, a new project he hopes will be another respectable and go-to source of news for hockey fans.
New ownership as a game-changer in terms of attendance
Understandably, much has been said recently about the pending sale of the Hurricanes to an investment group led by lawyer, Chuck Greenberg. We can all assume that there will be some changes coming for the Canes when/if the sale is completed, internally and externally.
In one article, the News & Observer mentioned possible changes like a new practice rink and more effort in growing the game in the area. While these things are important, I believe that the last thing mentioned in the article is the most significant. The Hurricanes need to rebuild their bond with the community as well as with their former season ticket-holding fans.
A positive relationship between the ownership of any sports franchise and the corresponding fan base is vital to its success. That has been missing here in Carolina for some time now.
While Caniacs have always been grateful to Peter Karmanos for moving this team to Carolina and for his help in winning the Cup in 2006, the relationship between fans and the owner has been less than positive for several years. For instance, it seems like after every press conference or interview, (and they have been rare of late), the owner has said something to irritate fans. From throwing Peter Laviolette under the bus after firing him, to poking fun at Jim Rutherford for acquiring Phil Kessel in Pittsburgh, and then for repeatedly telling fans to be patient, Karmanos has not exactly been “bonding” with the community lately nor has he necessarily been correct in his criticisms or assessments.
Once it was reported that the team was for sale, an already tenuous relationship grew even worse and attendance fell off the map. The Hurricanes went from 17th in the league with average attendance of 17,558 per game in 2012-13 to last in the league at 11,776 last season.
Current President of Gale Force Holdings, Don Waddell, said that the club underwent a new policy of giving away fewer freebies a couple of years ago which helped lead to a decline in the numbers, but they were not giving away 6,000 tickets a game back then.
Coincidentally or not, the biggest drop in ticket sales came after it became public that the team was on the block. While Gary Bettman can say 1,000 times over that the club is not moving anywhere, fans saw the Atlanta Thrashers pack and move almost over-night, without any warning and felt the same could happen here. Why invest in tickets when you don’t know what is going to happen with the club? I was personally asked that question more than once by former season ticket holders that I know.
There can be little doubt that the uncertainty of the future ownership of the Hurricanes adversely affected sales and once that uncertainty is gone, ticket sales will go up automatically, regardless of any other factors. And if Greenberg is half the promoter and wannabe partner of fans that his reputation says that he is, that will only help.
This community is craving for a sports entity to get behind, as evidenced by the large and energetic crowd that gathered downtown in support of soccer this past week. If the promotions are handled correctly, the new owner(s) of the Hurricanes can capture that same spirit and energy.
Combine an improved product on the ice along with exciting new ownership (which will clear the cloud of uncertainty hovering over the franchise), and this coming season will be a busy one at the PNC Arena.