Monday, November 16, 2009

On Ottawa and the NHL

So I was at the Rangers 2-1 SO Win over the Ottawa Senators Saturday afternoon inside Scotiabank Place. Ottawa is great, and even though the arena is in Kanata (about 10 minutes outside the city), there is plenty to do around Kanata as well.

The Senators as a franchise were lucky enough to have the distinct advantage of being placed in Canada to start from a business perspective. Unless they never win a game for the next five years, I don't see how their attendance could ever dive below the top 15 (in terms of percent capacity). The biggest business challenge for the Sens to me? They are going up against the history of the Maple Leafs, Canadiens, and even the Quebec Nordiques to an extent.

I was thinking about this at the game. Ottawa is, for the most part, just stuck between Montreal and Toronto. With the Leafs and Habs being apart of the original six, generations upon generations of Canadians grew up supporters of one of the two clubs typically. With the Senators playing only their 17th season this year (16 if you want to subtract the lockout), its no wonder some people seem to think Sens fans aren't as dedicated as others.

To this I say bullshit. I know the passion is there otherwise they wouldn't fill the arena year in and year out. The key, to me at least, is to create a consistently winning team. I mean, look at the fan passion during the 2006 Stanley Cup final. That looks like a lot of fun for anyone. What needs to happen is the team has to give a reason for the roof to blow off Scotiabank, which could easily happen with a playoff run.

To me, part of the reason why the Rangers are so popular (besides being from NY), is because of 1994. The support of the Rangers got passed down generation by generation just like any other original six team, but 1994 awoke many sleeping fans along with creating new ones (including myself, as my dad is a Bruins fan with his parents from Boston). Hockey was hot in '94, and conveniently one of the biggest cities in the world captured the top prize. Coincidence that there are Ranger fans scattered across North America and the World today? Not at all.

My end point is this: I want Ottawa to succeed because I think there should/can be at least two more teams in Canada. This whole southern expansion thing has been good and bad, but the NHL needs to cut its losses in the next three to five years. The NFL did it with NFL Europe, and cut its losses eventually. Canada is where hockey will always be king, and the NHL needs to take advantage of that in a business sense. The great thing about the Senators is that, from my point of view as an American going to games at Scotiabank, all they need to do is put a winning team on the ice consistently. Everything else will fall in line because Ottawa is lucky enough as a franchise (from a business sense) to be located where Hockey is king.

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