Seattle Has 241,463 “Avid Hockey Fans”. Are you one of them?

-----art-wide-ice_20140102101255344818-620x349Last May, Nate Silver, (the guy who correctly predicted 50 states in 2012 Presidential Election) wrote an article in the NY Times about “Why Can’t Canada Win the Stanley Cup”.   It’s long and a good read and in support of his argument, he built an “NHL Avid Fan Index” by media market size including Seattle.

He estimates that Seattle has 241,463 NHL Avid Fans (~5% of population).  While we can debate the methodology of using search words to define “Avid Fans”, there are some interesting comparisons to be made between Seattle and existing NHL Markets.  Seattle has more “Avid Fans” than four existing franchises (Columbus, Raleigh-Durham, Miami, Nashville) all of which have had between 12-20 years to build their fan bases.  If you sort through the list by media market size you see that Minneapolis/St. Paul is closest to Seattle in size and would set a benchmark goal of 622,800 (~13% of population).

While it’s pretty tough to validate the assumption of 241,463 “Avid Hockey Fans”, it doesn’t mean we can’t try.

There are varying degrees of “Fan” definitions so below is a poll where you can identify what kind of hockey fan you are.

NHL Hockey in Seattle, how COOL is that.  Now is the time to build the hockey community.

(unscientific poll)

NHL Coming to Seattle: Stand Up and be Counted

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Seattle is poised to join the NHL and the new rivalries with Vancouver, San Jose, LA are so promising and irresistible that people are getting downright giddy.  The pieces seem to be falling into place and the excitement locally and buzz in the broader hockey world is reaching a fever pitch. We have multiple ownership groups working behind the scenes to solidify their positions.  Much of the “Heavy lifting” has been done for a new arena and NHL league expansion statements (and no comments) are dissected and scrutinized in search of clues. Every major Hockey media (and Bloggers) has reported that Seattle is either 1st or 2nd in line for expansion.   Is there any doubt in your mind that in 2014 Seattle will be “Welcomed” into the NHL?

I PREDICT THAT SEATTLE WILL BE GRANTED AN NHL FRANCHISE BEGINING IN THE 2015-16 SEASON.  (Announcement made after the Stanley Cup has been awarded).

There is still much work to do and while the NHL and new ownership group sorts through their negotiations (expansion fees), working with the Sonics Group, City and County on arena MOU amendments and the details of interim playing facility, building an organization and naming the team, what’s a fan supposed to do?

NHL SEATTLE HOCKEY FANS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

We have an opportunity to build our community and make a difference.  Here’s how:

1.  Stand Up and Be Counted.

Declare yourself an “NHL Hockey Fan” and tell the prospective new ownership team that we will support them.  Let them and the rest of the Hockey world know that we love hockey and that there is a strong and committed base of support.  The prospective ownership groups decision will be easier if they know that we have a large number of committed fans.

(Registration form below)

2.  Help Grow the Community

We all have friends, neighbors, colleagues who have never experienced a live NHL game and it will be our job as “Ambassadors” to introduce them to the game.  Watching the occasional game on TV doesn’t do it justice.  They need to see how big these guys are, how fast the game is, how hard they hit and shoot and how crazy fans get when they score.  We’ll have to help them understand the rules (offside, icing, etc) the strategies, the tradition and history that makes winning the Stanley Cup the most difficult of accomplishments in professional sport.

3.  Be Patient

Building a competitive NHL team and fan base is hard work and takes a long time.  There will be lots of losses along the way, bad breaks (injuries) and missed playoffs that will test your commitment to the team.  By committing to the team early and by leading in growing the community it will only make it sweeter when the team does become competitive, wins a playoff round or two or when they ultimately win the Stanley Cup.

NHL Hockey in Seattle, HOW COOL IS THAT!

Now is the time to build our Hockey Community.

SPF Profile: Jamie Huscroft

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Every time I walk into an ice rink I can’t help but smile.  I feel the cold air as I walk through the door, I hear the sounds of blades cutting into the ice and I re-live the energy of players playing.  It just feels right.  So it was, when I met up with Jamie Huscroft (NHL stats) at Sno-King Ice Renton to talk about hockey.  Jamie’s office proudly exhibits the logos of the 7 NHL teams (NJ, Boston, Calgary, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Phoenix and Washington) where he played 352 NHL games during a career that spanned 14 years.  Included in the shrine is an 8”x10” picture of Bobby Orr’s (favorite player as a kid growing up in Creston BC) Stanley Cup winning goal where he is flying like superman through the air.  As he got a bit older his favorite player changed.  “During the 80’s, the NY Islanders were on their run and I became a big time fan of Bobby Nystrom.  I got to know him when I played in NJ because he was doing the broadcasts for the NYI and I’d see him all the time, loved him, can’t say enough good things about him”.  In the corner of his office are two “Hockey Stalls”, you know the kind the pro’s use, with just the right amount of hooks to hang equipment on and shelves for personal belongings and toiletries.  If everyone had one of those cool stalls to dry out their equipment there would be far fewer cases of Hockey rash.

Favorite Hockey Moment

“You would think it’s my first goal, ah, it wasn’t very pretty.  It was ugly, no idea where it was going, it went in the net, it was a goal, I went “Cool”.”  While Jamie’s “Hands” were a big part of the reason why he was playing in the NHL, no one believed or expected that scoring goals was their primary use.  Jamie’s favorite moment was in Boston, during the 1993-1994 Season. It was the night that Cam Neely scored his 50th goal in 44 games tying him with Mario Lemieux for the second fastest player to achieve that milestone.  “The night Cam scored his 50th as part of a “Hat trick”, that night was special.  Being there in the Boston Gardens, sold out crowd, game or two left in the shortened season (lockout year 94), 1st one in the league to break 50 goals, they stopped the game.  The place came down, everybody was throwing hats and shoes, and I was sitting there on the bench and you could feel the building shaking; it was just crazy. ”

Sno-King Director of Facilities

The inherent challenge with managing Ice Rinks is that during the day, the kids are in school and the hockey playing community is working so there is an abundance of time slots available.  At night and on weekends, everybody wants to play and there aren’t enough time slots to meet demand.  “People are always screaming for more ice time. Sno-King gives me their requirements for minor hockey first and then I start juggling adult hockey leagues, figure skating, public skating and private lessons as best I can.

The minor hockey programs are incredibly healthy, highest it’s been in a long time.”  Last August, USA Hockey announced that Sno-King Amateur Hockey association was one of only 11 associations in the country to become ADM Certified.  USA Hockey’s American Development Model (ADM) has four guiding principles.

  • Making the game more affordable to attract and retain more players.
  • Reducing the time commitment to allow young players to participate in other sports and activities and to allow their families to plan for other family activities.
  • Make the most of the time that is spent at the rink by utilizing age optimal training techniques.
  • Making every trip to the rink a great experience for the player to make them look forward to their next practice and game.

“We’re trying to keep costs down and provide a life balance for the players.  Maybe you’re at the rink 3 days instead of 4, maybe you cross the mountains for 1-2 tournaments instead of 3-4.  We’re upfront with the kids and let them know that they will spend more time on the ice practicing than playing games, and I think that’s a good thing.  We play cross ice and have 50 kids split up among 6 coaches doing 5 minute drills and then cycling through to the next drill.  Our costs are among the lowest for minor hockey in the area”.

NHL Coming to Seattle

There has been lots of speculation about if, or when, the NHL might grant Seattle a franchise and Jamie thinks that “Really, it’s just a matter of time.  Unless you’re Gary Betman or one of the prospective owners, no one knows for sure when it will happen.  He is a very smart man and he’s not going to show you his hand but they will only put a team here if it makes financial sense”.   As far as whether the Seattle market could support a team, Jamie is very bullish.  “There are a lot of Hockey fans here, strong minor hockey presence, enough corporate money and you would draw fans from both Vancouver and Portland.   I went up to Vancouver the other day for a 5pm game and I’m sure that people from Vancouver would come down here too”.

The T-birds and Silvertips have both developed strong fan bases and we discussed if an NHL team would help or hurt the junior programs.  “I’ve heard both sides of the argument and I think it helps.   It’s two different things.   People who attend Jr Hockey games bring their families because it’s good hockey and affordable entertainment.  An NHL team in Seattle doesn’t change that”.  We talked about what were some of the characteristics of a “Dream” NHL owner and Jamie said “Ridiculous amount of money”.  “When I was in Washington, Ted Leonsis and his wife would come down and hang out or bs with the boys and it was great.  When I was in Tampa, the team was owned by a Japanese business man and I never met the man.  I like the idea of a passionate owner like Mark Cuban is for his basketball team.  He wants to win and that’s a good thing for the team.  Paul Allen is a great owner, he’s on the field with the players, he provides the team with all the tools to win and he lets the Football people and coaches do their jobs.  When I was in Boston, I loved Jeremy Jacobs as an owner, that’s where I got my first real crack at playing in the NHL”.   We then discussed how NHL teams in LA, NY Rangers, Toronto, Denver, and Philadelphia own both the Hockey and Basketball teams.  “Having two tenants certainly helps from a building perspective, but I don’t know if it helps either team in the market because they have two very different audiences”.

There’s a knock at the door and Jamie is late for an on-ice session.  He moves over to the stall in his office while continuing his train of thought and quickly laces up his skates.   I follow him out of his office and then pause to watch as he heads for the ice.  Stick in hand, full of purpose. I think to myself, the Seattle hockey community is a better place because of Jamie Huscroft and I can’t help but smile.

Olympic Ads That Make Me Smile

I know that as we watch the incredible performances and the competition of the Olympics, we don’t consciously consider the commerce and money that makes it all happen.  The Russians spent $51 Billion creating Sochi and there has been lots of discussion about whether or not they got enough bang for their buck.  NBC and the CBC have spent huge sums of money to secure the television and digital rights to the games and have assembled a pool of sponsors only too happy to leverage the big audiences into new advertising campaigns.  It’s all just the cost of doing business and the same as it’s always been.

There are two ads (Tim Hortons & Canadian Tire) that I like from Canada because both of them do a good job of creating a bond between me and the athletes.  They value the people behind the scenes that have contributed to the development of these hockey stars and they talk about the support of a Nation in their quest.  Hokey, sure they are, but I like them.

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MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE is the Molson’s beer fridge at the Olympics.  It’s bright red and has been equipped with a scanner that reads Canadian Passports.  If you’ve got one, the door opens and you grab a cold one, if you don’t, you start looking to make a friend who is wearing red.

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If Molsons decides to make these commercially available they will move up to the top of every man’s “Wish List” in an effort to make their man cave the coolest ever.  In fact, if I owned an NHL team, I would plaster my team logo on it and reprogram them so that Season Ticket Holders could grab a beer without waiting in line.  WELL DONE MOLSONS, VERY CLEVER.

Just so you know, here is a picture of my fridge.

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Hockey Humor: How To Catch a Canadian?

How to Catch a Canadian