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Panthers: Yeah, We Suck, But At Least We’re Fun to Watch! June 21, 2010

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.
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The title is not a parody, unfortunately.

There’s a story in Advertising Age which ran a few days ago (link) that was talking about how the Florida Panthers are trying to sell hockey tickets when the team, to be frank, sucks. The Panthers haven’t made the playoffs in nine years, and the team they have now doesn’t exactly scream “powerhouse.” Now, with the Entry Draft later this week, and free agency starting in less than two weeks, that could change a bit. But if the Panthers’ preseason odds of winning the Stanley Cup are anywhere south of nine figures to 1, I would be impressed at their offseason improvement. But hey, if they DID offer odds like that, I might just drop a buck on the Panthers for the fun of it. As we saw with the Flyers this past spring, you never know…

And I can’t exactly say I find fault with the Panthers for taking that line of play. Get fans in the building for the party, and they just might develop a love for the game despite the team’s misfortunes. As a recent convert to the sport myself–my first Caps game was early in the ’05-’06 season–I’m all for bringing new fans into the fold. Today’s party crowd could very well end up being tomorrow’s dedicated hockey crowd. I showed up at my first Caps game on an absolute lark, and ended up finding somewhere that I could contribute my own creativity to something a lot bigger than myself. Perhaps, among the casual fans at Panthers games this coming season, there’s a new fan who has never seen a live hockey game, and who’s there for the party, but who ends up walking out of the building as a hockey fan.

That’s great! And I have to sincerely applaud the Panthers for doing everything they can to expand the sport. If they’ve already got all the hockey fans they can get, then they need to make new hockey fans. And the best way to do that, is to get people to see the game in person. Everyone knows this: the game is MUCH better when seen live and in person. But if the team’s not that good, how do you convince people to pay money to watch a team that’s likely as not to lose? You have to get creative, and that’s what the Panthers are doing here. Kudos to the Panthers for trying something unorthodox, and for the sake of the sport in that area, I hope it works.

Sometimes, unorthodox moves do pay off in the long run. Case in point: if the Islanders called and offered to give the Caps back Brendan Witt in exchange for Semyon Varlamov, does anyone think that offer would have any chance at all of going through? It shouldn’t. But that’s exactly the deal that the Caps managed to swing by dealing Witt to Nashville in ’06 in exchange for the draft pick that was used to draft Varlamov. Think the Preds want a mulligan on that one?

But sometimes, unorthodox backfires. Since we’re on the Panthers…Roberto Luongo for Todd Bertuzzi. How’d that one work out?

So while I like the idea of the Panthers trying to bring more fans into the building, I do hope they remember that they are first and foremost in the hockey business. Panthers fans will not long suffer a team that continues to stink up the joint, atmosphere or not. Nor should they. By all means, bring the party now. But if the on-ice product continues to languish, no amount of in-arena distractions will keep fans coming back season after season. Yes, you’ll get a few who find their element and stay put. But it seems there’s always a party somewhere in Florida, so competition for that crowd will be fierce. Sooner or later, you have to turn your revelers into hockey fans. And if the playoff drought keeps going in Sunrise year after year after year, the party could be over for the Panthers a lot sooner than they think.

CAPITAL SPIRIT
PARTY ANIMAL I’M NOT

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