Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Marketing the Game: Celebrities and the NHL

Vince Vaughn at the 2009 Winter Classic.

One of my roommates here at school is an Ottawa Senators "fan." I use the quotation marks because he doesn't watch any games during the season, he only knows three to five current players on the roster, and above all has absolutely no clue where they are in the standings. All that matters to him is two things. First, Mike Fisher stays with the team. And second, the Senators win in our annual trip to Scotiabank Place when the Rangers visit the Sens in October or November of each season (three years and running the Rangers have lost this game, kill me now).

I subjected you to all of that because he just started talking the whole Mike Fisher-Carrie Underwood relationship thing/fling/news; weeks after I mentioned it to him. This got me thinking about other NHL celebrity fans. Jeremy Piven has been interviewed at least once if not twice at Ranger games this year, both of which seemed forced and awkward. Spike Lee was also caught at the garden as well. I've seen Pat Sajak at Kings and Capitals games, and plenty of stars showed up for the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Do not get me wrong, having Celebs at the games are great. It no doubt brings attention to the game along with probably making a couple of fans out of dumb Americans that follow celebrities. But like I said above with the Jeremy Piven-New York Rangers interviews, most interviews just seemed forced and fake. I guess what I'm really trying to get at is, the NHL seems so desperate when it comes to recognizing public figures at its games. Personally, I think the NHL should be very nonchalant about it. Sure, do a story about them at the Winter Classic and ask some simple questions. Sure, take a picture of Hilary Duff and Carrie Underwood once or twice and ask them their opinions during the game. But after that, just let them be. I understand celebrities are used to attention, but don't bring it to them when they are trying to relax watching a great game in a great sport that is under-appreciated to begin with.

This isn't really a big issue, but it just seems like anytime a famous face is in the Garden during a Rangers game, they have someone sticking a mic in their face and asking awkward questions about their next entertainment ploy. I guess I just don't want to drive away any star power the league has to begin with. The league should act like the cool older brother to the group of little sister and friends, where they say hello, talk to them from now and then, but at the same time just let them be most of the time.

Any thoughts on the issue for the few of you loyal businessmen/women out there?

BallHype: hype it up!

The Tuesday Memo

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey.

- The economy has struck down on the ECHL, causing the Dayton Bombers and the Mississippi Sea Wolves to suspend operations for next season, along with the Phoenix RoadRunners decision to cease operations altogether (ECHL.com). The Dayton and Mississippi clubs will have to report by June whether they plan to return to the league in 2010 or further suspend or cease operations.

In good news, the ECHL will return to Toldeo, Ohio next season.

- Charles Wang speaks again, saying that if the plans to renovate the Nassau Coliseum aren't approved by October, he will most likely look to move the team to another part of Long Island. Queens is making a big push (NY Daily News).

- We all know the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings will head to Stockholm, Sweden to kick off the '09-'10 NHL season on October 2nd and 3rd, but before that each team will play an exhibition game against Swedish Elite teams (NHL.com).

Also, both games in Stockholm have sold out at 26,000 for the Globe Arena in Stockholm.

- Darren Everson of the Wall Street Journal explains why you should have watched the NCAA Mens Ice Hockey Tournament over the weekend if you wanted real upsets (WSJ Sports).

- Also, on a non-business note but a personal opinion I agree with; Nate says the NHL is more physical than the NFL (SFSI).

- Finally, Ovechkin shocks the Caps physical trainer:

Check back later.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Monday Memo

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey.

- Coming up this week: Check back later today for an opinion piece on Celebrity NHL fans ... Wednesday begins a new month, which means fresh monthly attendance reports either then or Thursday ... Finally, the week will wrap up/start with the usual bi-weekly Second Half Attendance Boost update. And on another note, I'm getting into crunch time here at school, so please excuse my absenteeism at some points until May 1st. After then, its all playoff hockey, summer jobs, and this site. Thanks for reading as always.

- The Dallas Stars are on the block for minority ownership (Dallas News):
"Hicks (Tom) also owns the Dallas Stars. He said he owns 95 percent of both teams (Texas Rangers) and is willing to let up to 49 percent of each club be owned by limited partners, allowing him to keep majority ownership. He anticipates owning 51 to 60 percent when the process ends."
- There has been many rumors of the AHL establishing a Western Conference due to the number of West-coast NHL teams that affliate with East-coast teams, but AHL President Dave Andrews pours some cold water on that (Masslive.com):
"Not so, says league president Dave Andrews.

"We are not pushing, nor can we," he said. "Only Edmonton can make the decision regarding when or if they want to activate the franchise. If they do make that decision, it would be up to our Board of Governors to act on it. The Oilers would need league approval regarding where they might want to place the franchise."
- NHL TV Ratings are consistent, but tiny (Sports Media Watch):
"Of the fifteen non-Winter Classic regular season telecasts on NBC in the past two seasons, only one has drawn a 1.0 rating. The majority of games have drawn a 0.8 rating, with two games this season drawing a 0.9."
- Last week was the public information session meeting for the Lighthouse Project on Long Island, and Nick says the project is now at a crossroads, in a good way (Let There Be Light(house)):
"Over 1,000 people jammed the Marriott ballroom last night to attend the Lighthouse Development Group's 180th community outreach meeting. It was billed as a public information session, and those who may not have been as informed on the project could have come away learning quite a bit. For me, it was bits of information surrounded by....a pep rally."
- Finally, Molson Canadian Beer thinks players should have more curve on their sticks:

More later.

- Update, 2:30 PM:

Scott Burnside at ESPN reports that the Coyotes are on pace to lose up to 40% of their revenue-sharing allotment this season because of failed goals for ticket sales. Along with this, the NHL supposedly condemned the club for going out of the box with its recent ticket promotion involving Smirnoff liquor. Finally, sources think there will be changes in ownership, "sometime between the start and finish of the playoffs (between mid-April and the beginning of June)"

- Note: The editorial on Celebrities in the NHL will come tomorrow, around noon. So please do come back.

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Friday Memo

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey

Slow day today, and with my first free weekend in a while, I'm not sure how much I'll be around until Sunday.

- One thing I do plan on doing is catching the NCAA College Hockey Tourney on the various ESPN networks. If I was home I would be able catch em all, but ESPN 2 will do for today and tomorrow.

- An updated look at the NHL and Olympic situation (Globe and Mail):
"But Bettman said: “It's not so easy to simply say ‘Let's go to the Olympics'. We shut down our season for two weeks to 17 days and there is a momentum to our season that is lost...it all comes to a screeching halt and we go off to the Olympics.

“No other league stops to go do this. In fact, baseball doesn't do it and it's no longer an Olympic sport. This is hard, it's not always a good experience and the benefits we've sometimes seen were not always worth what we've had to sacrifice."

Personally, I am more for a soccer-style setup where only 4-5 (its actually 3 in soccer) senior-team (top leagues) professionals can play for their country, while the rest are prospects. But we will save that debate for the long days of the off-season.

- Commissioner Bettman re-states that the Coyotes will be staying in Phoenix (ESPN):
"Our goal is to bring in new capital and make this franchise solvent," Bettman said Thursday night while attending the Coyotes game against the Edmonton Oilers. "That's our direction, and at this point moving the franchise elsewhere is not on the table."

The Coyotes have reportedly lost $200 million since current owner Jerry Moyes brought the team in 2001, and are projected to lose another $30 million this season."

- Finally, the NHL takes men and makes them "real men:"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Thursday Memo

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey.

Slow, slow day so far.

- A look at the Escrow Situation along with some reporting on TV Revenues of four major sport leagues in the US (National Post):
"The players are having 22.5 per cent of their cheques deducted and put into an account with J.P. Morgan until the league determines what the actual revenues from this season have been. Once decided, the players will then be getting some of that money back, but the whack to their bottom line is expected to be substantial.

"Our best estimate at the moment is about 13 per cent will be what the players will eventually lose," says Kelly


"In terms of national revenues per season, the NFL is at $3.7 billion (US), major league baseball is $1.37 billion, the NBA is at $930 million and the NHL, with RDS, CBC, NBC and Versus all in, is at just $225 million," says Kelly. "There's a lot of reasons for that, but it's the single biggest drawback we're facing in the league right now."
The NHL makes 24% of what the NBA makes, 16.4% of MLB, and 6% of NFL. Downright puny. Remember my theory on the NHL being near a business peak? This is what I'm talking about. Yes, it is great that the league is filling two-thirds of its arenas on a regular basis but in terms of revenue growth without TV the league is going nowhere fast. Do I wish the NHL could make 3.7 Billion on TV? Sure. But its a special "niche" sport for a reason, I guess.

- Want your kid to go to school to learn hockey? How's $32,000 (Canadian) a year sound? (Metronews.ca)

- Finally, Bobby Granger bumps into Henrik Lundqvist:

More later.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Wednesday Memo

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey.

- Smirnoff Vodka drinkers can catch the Coyotes host the Blues on April 7th due to the latest Coyotes ticket promotion. (Coyotes.com)

- Wayne Gretzky admits the Coyotes financial troubles did creep into the locker room this season (Versus.com):
“We tried to keep it out of our locker room as much as we could,” he told Versus.com. “Going into the All-Star break, it was pretty exciting and there was a real strong buzz. Not to make any excuse, but it sort of seeped into the locker room. Some of the guys we traded, players looked at it, like, ‘What’s going to happen here? Are we going to be here?’ It creeps into the locker room.
- A review of the environmental issues facing the Lighthouse Project on Long Island (Let There Be Light(house)).

- The Detroit Red Wings have a big decision this off-season; to stay in Joe Louis Arena or to build a new one? (Freep.com)

- James Mirtle does what I should have done and creates a nice chart to keep tabs on Ticket Prices (From The Rink). I will be doing this over the off-season as well probably.

- Finally, Dan Cloutier makes his best glove save ever in this old Nike Commercial:

More later.

Update, 2:30 PM EST:

- If the playoffs started today, TV/Media Edition (Puck The Media)

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

NHL Average Attendance by "Round"

Striving for a new look on this years attendance numbers as the season winds down, (more like desperate for some material) I figured this might give us a different look after watching a weekend full of my other favorite sport; soccer. For the Soccer incompetent, most leagues use the terms "week" or "round" for each weekend of league matches, just like the NFL.

Now, as well all know the NHL does not do this as there are games every day of the week, but nonetheless the way my spreadsheet is setup I can easily pull an average up for each Home Game Number for each team. To actually get the NHL Average Attendance by week will take some time, which I might tackle over the off-season. But for now, we will have to deal with the NHL Average Attendance by "Round." It's also worth noting that the NHL plays the regular season in about 27-28 weeks time. Take a look (click to enlarge):

The start looks like the stock market. Anywho, this isn't a perfect nor completed graph, as each team in the NHL has only 34 home games completed of their 41, but that isn't a problem. The reality is that some teams have played more home games than others, but most teams are within one, two, or three home games of each other across the board. The largest difference is four games right now, between LA/OTT and EDM/CHI.

Nonetheless, what this graph confirms is the overall Second Half Attendance boost the league and its clubs enjoy as the season wears on and the playoff intensity picks up. Nothing comes close to opening weekend with the exception of playoffs and possibly the regular season finale, but we will find that out. Also, its worth noting that the NHL Avg. Arena Capacity is 18,435, and my chart says that "Round 1" of home games averaged out at 18,434; 30 people short of a "leaguewide" sellout.

More later.

The Tuesday Memo

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey.

- Gonna be in Vegas on June 18th? Will you be craving hockey after the playoffs end even more? Tickets for the NHL Awards Show at the Palms Hotel go on sale tomorrow at 3 PM EST. (NHL.com)

- The Thrashers are dancing dangerously close to the Revenue Sharing Qualification line. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

- The Avalanche are in the midst of their worst season ever on and off the ice, and thus may be able to dip into the Revenue Sharing pool as well. (Denver Post)

- The push for a new arena in Quebec City (from January; I had to run it through Yahoo's translator as well. Click on the project title at the first screen, then scroll and click on "More details..." to reach the destination.)

- Finally, the Hartford Wolf Pack test out the new (old by now) Norelco Razor:

New Attendance post in a bit.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Monday Memo

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey...

- Philly @ Pitt draws a 1.0/2 for NBC's Game of the Week yesterday (Puck The Media).

- Are the Montreal Canadiens and the Bell Centre up for sale? (CBC)

- If the Lighthouse Project for the Islanders does not go though, Queens is opening its arms to the club (NY Daily News).

- Finally, an old Panthers commercial (head shot, Colin Campbell?):

More later.

Update, 6:30 PM EST:

- On TV, the Canucks play to an audience over over 300,000 a game. (Sportsnet.ca)

BallHype: hype it up!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Second Half Attendance Boost: Part IV

As promised, here is the fourth installment of the Second Half Attendance Boost series. The last was two weeks ago, and you can find all three previous parts here. Without further adieu, the average attendance figures (click to enlarge):

Carolina still leads the charge with LA and Columbus just behind. Columbus is still undoubtedly benefiting from the playoff fever, as they are currently in sixth place in the West. But, what is really good to see is that LA's number have not dipped from two weeks ago when they were still in the playoff race. The Kings currently sit 13th in the West, six points out of a playoff spot. They are not out of it, but they are definitely outside looking in. Something else that is good to see is only two red blocks, along with 5 out of the 6 bottom teams having a positive two weeks.

Now lets take a look at the average capacity attendance chart (click to enlarge):

Whoa, a lot more color here. Most of the changes are minuscule, though, with figures under or around 1%. Ottawa had the biggest jump in the past two weeks, with over a 2% gain. Overall, 16 teams are benefiting from the second half attendance boost, along with the league as a whole too.

There will be two more installments of the series, one two weeks from today, and another after the season wraps up on Sunday, April 12. The end is in sight, people.

Thanks for reading as always and I will be back posting regularly starting tomorrow afternoon after a bit of travel in the morning back to school.

BallHype: hype it up!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

On Haitus Until Monday

This week has been crazy as I am on break doing many different things. I will be back posting Monday afternoon. Thanks for visiting as always.

One thing for the weekend that I was notified of, the New Jersey Devils are reducing season ticket prices next year and are also offering great deals with them. Take a look here.

Come on back Monday.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Wednesday Memo

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey...

- NBC has chosen two Red Wings games to finish out the season in the Game of the Week series (Puck The Media). The Wild visit the Wings on Sunday, April 5 followed by the Wings going to Chicago on Sunday, April 12.

James Mirtle posts four parts of a five part series that has been running in The Globe that takes a look at Junior hockey in Canada (From The Rink). Part 3 ("No longer a mom and pop business") and Part 4 ("When a career reaches a crossroads") are very much business-oriented and the whole series is worth a read if you have a bunch of time to kill.

- The Winnipeg Free Press took a look at the possibility of relocating to Kansas City for the NHL last week, and here is the response from a local KC blogger who keeps an eye on all things involving KC and the NHL.

- Finally, Peter Forsberg apparently struggles with lamps:

Also, this week I'm on break so I apologize for only one post a day but I'm doing the best to enjoy my break at home. Thanks for reading as always.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Tuesday Memo

News and Notes around the Business World of Hockey...

- Players are expected to forefit around 13% of their salaries (through escrow funds) in order to cover revenue shortfalls this season (Globe and Mail). However, because of the raise from 13.5% to 22.5% for the second half of the season, the players will recieve money back plus interest over the off-season:
"If the union and league projections prove to be correct, the players will keep just 87 per cent of this year's salaries. That would be after they receive a refund of about 5 per cent of their salaries plus interest, Kelly said in an e-mail message."
My question would be, how short are we talking here, and which teams are in the most trouble? I was really expecting the league to stay flat in terms of Hockey Related Revenue this season, but with so much money being taken out of the escrow funds, it doesn't look so anymore.

- Tonight at Jobing.com arena the Coyotes take on the Canucks at 7 PM PST, and it is 1980's night. Paul Kukla thinks the Coyotes should have Gretzky play to make it more realistic (KK Hockey).

- A fanpost at James Mirtle's From The Rink dives into European Attendance figures, which are "up" this season:
"In a press release last week, IIHF president René Fasel trumpeted a "substantial increase" in attendance at European club hockey games. What Fasel didn't say and a closer look at the attendance figures reveals is that attendance actually declined for 37 of the 64 teams for which year over year comparisons are possible.


A fairer statement about European hockey attendance would go something like this:Attendance at European club hockey has plateaued at slightly over 70% of arena capacity and is at risk of trending downward."
Oh, and hockey is more popular in North America than Europe:
"The NHL reports attendance of about 21 million for 1230 games involving 30 teams in metro areas with a population of about 117 million. The six major European leagues report combined attendance of about 13.7 million for 2512 games involving 92 teams in metro areas with an estimated population of about 96 million.

And for those who like really big numbers, try this: North American hockey attendance at 11 leagues (including the three major junior leagues) with 201 teams is approximately 44 million per year. European (including Russia and Great Britain) attendance for the 301 teams listed at Hockeyarenas.net is about 18 million."
- Finally, the NHL was once the "coolest game on earth" with coy ads such as this one:

More later.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Battle of Florida: Part III

I figured I would run this one more time before the end of the season. Here is the first part, and the second part.

The Lightning out-average the Panthers by about a 1,000 per game (16,435 to 15,448), but this difference shrinks to about 100 if you just solely look at the second half figures (16,111 to 15,998) as of today.

Here's the big graph (click to enlarge):

Both teams benefit from their similar opponents travel schedule. For example, the highs on the graphs for both teams are Northeastern clubs such as Montreal, Toronto, Boston, and New York (Rangers, that is). But, with Florida in the Eastern race while Tampa Bay preps for next season, it will be interesting to see if Florida can find any sort of base to work off of. Tampa Bay should still out-average Florida in the end though, with more of a fan-base due to their Stanley Cup history along with the bigger capacity of the St. Petes Forum compared to the BankAtlantic Center.

Come on back tomorrow.

The Monday Memo (3:15 PM Update)

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey...

- Is Steve Avery the new NHL Golden Boy? (Puck The Media) - I like to think so.

- The University of Wisconsin is going ahead with plans to build a new arena for the Badger's Men's and Woman's Division I hockey teams (BizJournals). This one is a bit different though, as the arena is going to be privately funded, which is unusual for a University (especially one the size of Wisconsin).

- From Friday, the NHL Awards Show will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada this season (Yahoo).

- The NHL and Madison Square Garden have reportedly settled over their media-rights battle with the Rangers website among other things (Sports Business Journal):
"Terms of the settlement aren’t disclosed in the letter, but it does say that the settlement is expected to be completed by the end of March, at which time documentation of it will be submitted to the court and the lawsuit will be dismissed.

Sources familiar with the pending settlement say that it will see MSG cover all of the league’s legal fees, which are more than $15 million. Additionally, MSG will receive a seat on the NHL’s digital committee, NHL governors will be given the right to motion for anonymous votes on issues put before the board, and ownership groups will be able to propose a 30-day waiting period before the board votes on an issue brought forward by the NHL."

- The New Hartford Spartans win the Division II New York State High School Hockey State Championship (Utica OD).

- NHL.com has a sidebar ad for something called "The Portal" - I think from watching the video it has something to do with playoffs, as The Portal "opens" on April 13.

- Finally, an old OLN (Versus) NHL promo:

More later.

- Update, 3:15 PM EST:

- An overview behind the logic of freezing ticket prices in the NHL and NBA in such an economic climate (Dave Milz; Bleacher Report)

- Flyers at Rangers on NBC Sunday draws a 1.1/3 overnight (Puck The Media).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Back Tomorrow

I apologize once again. I finished a hectic weekend in which my younger brother won the New York State High School Hockey Championship. I will be back tomorrow posting again.

Congrats to the New Hartford Spartans on a 6-1 win, making this alumni proud as we lost the Section championship just two years ago.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Programming Note

I apologize for the lack of posting today, I had a long Thursday night with friends, along with a 3 hour traveling session home to a new puppy. I will be back tomorrow.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Thursday Memo (Noon Update)

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey...

- Through 32 games, the Predators are averaging 13,940 paid tickets per game, a 7.6% gain since the same mark last season (Tennessean). Let's remember though, it is under the magic 14,000 revenue-sharing bar for this season.

- More news on the Lighthouse Project as a public information session has been scheduled along with a long post on possible stimulus money for the project. (Let There Be Light(house)).

- NHL GM's are worried about contracts that run into the 2010-2011 season due to the economy (NHL.com):
"We've very leery of contracts that run into the 2010-11 season. We think it's going to be very tough," said Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. "I think we'd be delusional to think we'd not see some impact (from the poor economy)."
- The Atlanta Thrashers introduce a new ticket plan; the Thrashers Man Plan (Thrashers.com).
You get one ticket, unlimited hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and soft pretzels along with a chance to meet and greet with members of the blue crew; better known as the Thrashers Ice Girls.

- Finally, I'm sure you've all seen this NHL promo involving players on a road trip (very accurate, if you ask me), but seeing as this will be my only post because today is the day before my spring break starts, I found it fitting:

- Update, Noon:

- The Chicago Blackhawks have been announced that season ticket prices from this season will not increase next season (NHL.com).

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Wednesday Memo (3 PM Update)

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey...

- The St. Louis Blues come out with a season ticket offer that if you renew by April 10th by putting as little as 10% down the season ticket prices will remain the same (Blues.com). If not, all season ticket prices go up by 10% for next season. And with the Blues only three points out of a playoff spot as of this morning, management is offering a "pay as we play" program if the Blues make the playoffs.

Up 10%? That sounds like a big jump to me.

- Tampa Bay Lightning Players, Coaches, Broadcasters, Owners, and Management visited homes and business throughout the Tampa Bay area on Monday to push their season ticket renewal packages along with delivering gift bags to season ticket holders (Lightning.com).
"The reclassification of 1,300 seats in the upper-portion of the terrace level creates a decline of up to 80 percent to only $239 for the season or just $5.69 plus tax, per game. Some of these seats cost season-ticket holders up to $1,199 for the 2008-09 season. When combined with those that were available at that price in 2008-09, almost 4,000 (about 20 percent) of the Times Forum seats will be available for $239. Half-season packages will be just $149 in the same area.

The remainder of the terrace-level seating will decrease by 20 percent. Many of the lower plaza and club-level seats will decrease 6-12 percent for the season and fans can sit in the plaza level for as low as $35.69 per game plus tax, per seat."
Good deals and great marketing getting out of the "office" and into the public. If you click on the article, a couple of the business apparently had a lot of memorabilia around their offices (naturally for the story, right?).

- In serious government Visa immigration rules that affect business, visa's for pro sports players have changed a bit (The Calgary Sun). Take a read:
"Foreign athletes participate in pro sports such as baseball, basketball, hockey and golf. They can come to the U.S. and play under what’s known as a P-1 visa, which is for internationally recognized athletes or members of internationally recognized entertainment groups.

Under the old regulations, recipients could get five years on the visa and extend it once for another five years, not to exceed a total of 10 years.

The new policy will require foreign athletes, at the end of 10 years, to leave the country before applying for a new visa. That’s not expected to be much of a burden for the athletes, many of whom return to their home country in the off-season."

The difference this could make is that at the end of their visa the player could be inclined to not return to the U.S. in favor for playing in their home country.

- The Blue Jackets "Nationwide Night" on Friday February 13th was apparently a huge success. The club partnered for the night with NASCAR to put on a cross promotional event (Partnership Activation).

- The Scotiabank Fan Fav award gives fans an opportunity to have an immediate personal connection with the league (Sponsorship Insight Group).

- Finally, this was arguably last years best NHL promo commercial; I think it was the best too:

BallHype: hype it up!

- NHL to ESPN next season? Not so much, says Bob McKenzie (Puck The Media).

- The NHL has always, oh whats the word, struggled with creative fan merchandise. So as they put out their annual St. Patrick's Day gear, Greg Wyshynski asks, "wheres a beer mug?" (Puck Daddy).

"But missing from the T-shirts and sweatshirts and the jerseys is, perhaps, the most popular aspect of the holiday in North America: the consumption of alcohol. No beer mugs, no pubs, not even a single reference to booze on the clothing.

Can the NHL make St. Patrick's Day an unofficial hockey holiday without also embracing its inebriated spirit?...

...Haskins said the NHL has produced this line of green gear at the request of its teams

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NHL's Most Successful Teams in 2008

Last Thursday, BizJournals came out with their "most successful" teams in the 2008 calendar year. Here's how they did it along with the time frame they used:

"Half of a team’s score was determined by its level of success on the field, court or ice. Bizjournals’ formula considered each franchise’s win-loss record, average margin of victory (or defeat), and playoff results.

The other half was determined by a team’s relative success in business. The formula analyzed average home attendance, the percentage of available seats sold for home games, and the increase (or decline) in a franchise’s value from 2007 to 2008. The latter was based on annual estimates published by Forbes magazine.

The study was confined to the 2008 calendar year. Statistics for the 2007-08 NBA and NHL seasons after Dec. 31, 2007, were combined with 2008-09 statistics through Dec. 31, 2008. Playoff results for the NFL, NBA and NHL came from the first half of 2008, since their 2008-09 playoffs had not begun as of the end of the year."

Three NHL Clubs were included in the top and bottom 10. Below is the list of where NHL teams rank (overall rank in parentheses):
  1. Montreal Canadiens (4)
  2. Detroit Red Wings (7)
  3. Pittsburgh Penguins (10)
  4. San Jose Sharks (12)
  5. Philadelphia Flyers (18)
  6. Chicago Blackhawks (24)
  7. Calgary Flames (27)
  8. New York Rangers (31)
  9. Minnesota Wild (33)
  10. Washington Capitals (41)
  11. Anaheim Ducks (47)
  12. Buffalo Sabres (48)
  13. Vancouver Canucks (53)
  14. Dallas Stars (55)
  15. Boston Bruins (60)
  16. Edmonton Oilers (61)
  17. Toronto Maple Leafs (64)
  18. Ottawa Senators (68)
  19. Colorado Avalanche (74)
  20. New Jersey Devils (79)
  21. Carolina Hurricanes (89)
  22. Nashville Predators (90)
  23. St. Louis Blues (94)
  24. Los Angeles Kings (96)
  25. Tampa Bay Lightning (97)
  26. Florida Panthers (102)
  27. Phoenix Coyotes (107)
  28. Columbus Blue Jackets (114)
  29. Atlanta Thrashers (119)
  30. New York Islanders (121)
And a look at how NHL clubs stack up against the other three leagues' teams:

As you can see, the NHL is very average across the board, which is a good thing to me. As is evident here as well, the NBA is top and bottom heavy, just like their attendance ranks as we found out in our last NHL v. NBA attendance tussle. One other thing, is the MLB not doing as well as many think it is?

Along with winning (duh), BizJournals found that attendance was a very key part of being a successful franchise:
"Championship teams that played before full houses did best in bizjournals’ ratings."
So maybe I'm not wasting my time with all these crazy graphs...

Come on back tomorrow.

BallHype: hype it up!

The Tuesday Memo

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey...

- NBC goes with the Flyers visiting the Penguins for the Sunday, March 22nd Game of the Week (Puck The Media). Many are thinking "ughh, Penguins and Flyers again!?" but the game will be just as good as the other probably option (NJ @ BOS) and will most likely mean more as the Penguins fight for a playoff spot and the Flyers hold onto 4th place by only 3 points.

- News from the GM's Meetings: Paul Kelley isn't happy with TV Coverage for the NHL in the states (Puck The Media). I think the best sites to be following for all the news would be here at mlive.com and the NHL.com blog.

- The Acadie-Bathurst Titan are staying put in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (NHL.com). Although this is somewhat insignificant, its good to hear about a club not moving in these times.

- Remember the "Most Successful" sports teams of 2008 according to BizJournals? Later I'll post each teams rank from the NHL and give an explanation at how they ranked every team in the Major Four Sports Leagues here in the U.S.

- Finally, Part 2 of Molson's lockout advertisements, this being the post-lockout ad:

BallHype: hype it up!

Playing Below Capacity: Colorado Avalanche

Welcome to the tenth and final edition of Playing Below Capacity. This has been a series at Puck Money where I take a look at teams (as of December) that are playing below 85% capacity. All previous editions can be found here. Now, if you noticed in that first link the Avalanche weren't playing below 85% as of December, but seeing as they have slipped below teams such as New Jersey and Los Angeles, I decided to do a bonus edition of the series featuring the Avalanche. Today its off to Denver, Colorado where the Avalanche rank 24th in average attendance with 15,762 and 23rd in average capacity attendance with 87.5%. The Avs have not benefited from the Second Half Attendance Boost either, being down just a bit in both average attendance and average capacity as of Sunday.

*Note: Any "problems" that I suggest the Thrashers have are my opinion and are most likely not 100% accurate (but close to it, if I do say so myself). Enjoy and please do comment.

Here are the ideas I came up with that could be problems with getting people to go to Avalanche games on a regular basis...
  • Arena Location/Age
  • High Ticket Prices/Poor Promotional Events
  • Metro Population
  • On Ice Product
  • Location/History of Franchise
  • Other
First, some basic facts about the Colorado Avalanche (wikipedia):
  • The Avalanche were founded in 1972 originally as the Quebec Nordiques of the World Hockey Association. The Nordiques joined the NHL in 1979, and moved to Colorado to become the Avalanche in 1995.
  • In twelve completed seasons, the Avalanche have made the playoffs an astounding eleven times. In this span, they have won the Stanley Cup twice ('96 and '01) and won a division championship eight times in a row from 1996 through 2003.
  • The Avalanche first played their home games at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver from 1995 to 1999. They have since played at the Pepsi Center, which opened in 1999.
  • The said capacity at the Pepsi Center is 18,007 for Ice Hockey.
- Arena Location/Age

Pepsi Center is just west of downtown Denver, but is in a great location in a great city. The sports road trip guys loved it, but did report that parking was at a very high level when they visited in 2001 at $40. Take a look (click to enlarge):

Pepsi Center is noted by the "A" arrow, and is located east across the river from Invesco Field and west of Coors Field. The inside of the Pepsi Center is laid out just as any other modern arena, but ask any fan that has been lucky enough to attend an Avalanche game and they will tell you it is a very nice venue (at least from my personal experience).

The age and location of the Pepsi Center is not an issue here. Denver was ranked 7th in The Sporting News Best Sports Cities in 2008, and although the teams in the city are collectively struggling, it makes the best of times even sweeter.

- High Ticket Prices/Poor Promotional Events

According to teammarketing.com, the Avalanche rank 26th in the Fan Cost Index. The Fan Cost Index:
"The Fan Cost Index™ comprises the prices of four (4) average-price tickets, two (2) small draft beers, four (4) small soft drinks, four (4) regular-size hot dogs, parking for one (1) car, two (2) game programs and two (2) least-expensive, adult-size adjustable caps."
They are about $10 below the NHL average ticket price of $49.66 and are about $6 above the NHL average premium ticket price of $113.44. Their ticket price is up about 3% this year, nothing really too major.

In the promotions department, the Avalanche are somewhat lacking. At the same time, the demand for Avalanche tickets are usually high, but offering little deals as the team attendance dips below 16,000 for the first time in the history of the Avalanche being in Denver doesn't exactly seem logical to me.

- Metro Population

The city of Denver has over 550,000 inhabitants which centers around a metro population of around 2.5 million (statshockey.net). The two figures are relatively low in the leagues ranks, but the city is racially made up of 75% whites, which we all know is the predominant fan demographic of the NHL.

- On-Ice Product

The Avalanche are currently last place in the Western Conference, and will miss the playoffs in their 13th season in Denver for only the second time. But, the Avs will miss the playoffs for the second time in three years, which I think has a major influence on the attendance. Lets take a look at the past couple of years (click to enlarge):

As you can tell, the attendance trend directly follows the placement in the standings. My question to Avs die-hards would be why didn't the attendance jump back a little after their two-round playoff appearance last season? Hopefully someone can answer that for me because I have no idea why it wouldn't flatten or bounce back a bit.

Unfortunately, immediate turn-around from last place in the West to conference champions doesn't look likely. The face of the franchise, Joe Sakic, will be 40 next season and has been injured for most of this one. They have a very solid core in Paul Stastny, Wojtek Wolski, and Marek Svatos. The Avs have been plagued by injuries this year, so if management can make some smooth moves over this off-season, its not unrealistic to think that next year this club could be pushing for a playoff spot. Priority number one from an outsider looking in would be goaltending, and I think many would tend to agree with me.

- Location/History of Franchise

Compared to other editions of this series, I somewhat held back in previous sections such as the population and arena location/age. I did this because Denver is simply a great hockey town. Go back 5 to 10 years and getting Avalanche tickets was just about as likely as winning the lottery if you were an outsider. To think that the Avalanche are going to average under 16,000 this season just plain baffles me. Have Avalanche fans gotten so used to winning that at the first sign of difficult times the couch seems like a better option than a seat at the Pepsi Center? I just seriously do not get it. Gary Miller of CBS 4 Denver wonders somewhat of the same thing, but brings the oh-so general word that many struggling teams are using nowadays (I think rightly so in this situation), Is it the economy, or the Avs play? I'm gonna take the safe bet and say both, as both obviously have an influence on any fan.

Look, any team outside of Detroit would kill for the past decade or so success Colorado has enjoyed, so I do not truly understand why it seems that so many Avs fans have seem to kind of disappeared (literally at the Pepsi Center). Maybe its because I'm riding a relative high with the Rangers and Red Sox as of the past five seasons, because before that it was 10X worse. The fact of the matter is, this franchise is rich in history and tradition, and Denver is a great place to be or live if hockey is your thing.

- Other

Season Ticket Retention will be huge in Denver this off season. It will be a challenge, as season tickets to Avalanche games are pricey along with a tough on-ice product. Just take a look at the comments here from the Denver Post's All things Avs blog. Here's a line that caught my eye by commenter James Jorgon:
"Even if I had vaults full of gold bullion at my disposal I wouldn’t buy/nor renew a single season ticket for this pathetic excuse of a hockey club. The utter contempt management has shown the fans this past season by doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to improve the product on the ice is akin to them having spit in all of our faces."
So yes, I think Avs fans have gotten used to winning, a lot. But can you really blame them? Last in the west isn't exactly the same success as fighting for a playoff spot, which I'm sure every Avalanche fan would rather have this season. Also, a great Avalanche blog is the SB Nation site Mile High Hockey.

- Conclusion

The Avalanche are far better off than most clubs in the league at the moment. Their attendance is dwindling because of two main reasons. First, the on-ice play is not up to par with a fan-base that expects a playoff-caliber team year in and year out. Every club fans expects this, but when you've only been around for under 15 years and have been absolutely spoiled with success, the pressure is even more intense. Secondly, I have no doubt the economy is playing a factor, whether Avs fans like to admit it or not. Many of those commenter's claimed they were season ticket holders, and if that is true many also said that along with the Avs poor play, they have picked a terrible time to struggle.

The cure? Fix the on-ice issues as soon as possible, but in the mean time the Avalanche marketing department has to get going with good ticket deals and expanding the fan base. The great rivalry days with Detroit are over for now, as the two teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum and the thought of going to a Red Wings - Avalanche game in the late '90's is an opportunity any hockey fan would have killed for. The Avs can turn it around in the next three seasons, but at the same time I do not see an immediate bottom for this club.

So that is it for Playing Below Capacity this season. It was a good ride and I really learned a lot along the way. I plan on doing the same thing next season with some changes too. At the same time, I will ask again that if anyone has anything they are curious about as to attendance figures/issues or business figures please let me know somehow and I will do my best to unveil some information.

Thanks and more to come later.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Monday Memo (2:00 PM Update)

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey...

Couple of things on deck for today.

- The NHL GM Meetings began today in Naples, FL. Scott Burnside of ESPN has the full rundown of all the events, meanwhile Paul Kukla posted a small but more business oriented post just a few minutes ago at KuklasKorner:
"NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly spoke to Scott Laughlin on Hockey This Morning from the GM Meetings in Florida and talked about the agenda for the week. Bill also talked about the Lighthouse project on Long Island, new ownership possibilities in Phoenix, and the trade deadline deals"
Paul also provided this link where you can listen to the above interview between NHL Deputy Commish Bill Daly and Scott Laughlin of Hockey This Morning.

- Speaking of the Lighthouse Project, Newsday attempted to "shine a light" on the project on Saturday by blowing some of the problems out of proportion. From the article in Newsday:
"Fewer cars, more walking. That's the idea.

The reality: The developers will have to overcome a host of challenges before building the complex that would also bring a five-star hotel, restaurants and stores to the Uniondale site."
- In reaction to this, Nick at Let There Be Light(house) once again showed how the project is actually very well planned and will keep the Islanders on Long Island:
"In addition, the SEQR process, which is New York State law, requires that you address what would happen if nothing is done. In this case, no renovated Coliseum = no Islanders in Nassau Coliseum."
The renovation of Nassau Coliseum would be the first major task completed in the project and it would obviously allow the Islanders as a franchise to avoid any sort of movement or (yikes) contraction.

- Any publicity is good publicity, right? Well when Team Canada players from the World Baseball Classic (which started this weekend; USA and Canada both played at the nearby Rogers Centre) asked the Leafs if they could get tickets to Saturday's game, they were told it would be $12,000 for a Luxury Box (Toronto Sun).
"When they said the price was too high, the MLSEL people dropped the number to $7,000. And when the players indicated they would need to purchase an additional 10 tickets for their group, the price leapt to over $10,000, prompting the Team Canada players to say thanks, but no thanks.

"Do you think the Yankees would give us a box if we asked for one?" Burke said. "I don't think so. So why should we?

And if they wanted the tickets, couldn't one of the millionaires have paid for them."

- Finally, a Molson Canadian gem from the lockout season:

Part 2 of the commercial series will come tomorrow. More later.

Update; 2:00 PM EST

- Yesterday's NBC Game of the Week featured the Rangers hosting the Bruins in a 4-3 New York Win. The game reportedly drew a 1.0/3 rating (Puck The Media).

- Last week the NHL Network provided a free preview for certain cable providers across the U.S. I was not able to experience the Network unfortunately, but Puck The Media gives you 8 reasons as to why they are purchasing the Network after the free preview.

More later.

BallHype: hype it up!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Second Half Attendance Boost: Part III

I just like the guy in the cowboy hat.

As much as there is nothing going on today, I still have some Second Half Attendance Boost numbers to present as they haven't been updated in two weeks. If you missed parts I and II, you can find them here. Let's first take a look at the average attendance numbers (click to enlarge):

No huge changes. Carolina is riding a great streak right now, selling out 4 of their last 7 home games and dipping below 18,000 only once during that streak as well. What is also good to see is that some teams that have lost in average in the second half have experienced a little boost in the last two weeks as the green boxes show.

Now lets take a look at the Second Half Capacity Attendance Boost (click to enlarge):

Again, more of the same, but the advantage of looking at the second half boost in terms of capacity is that it allows teams with a smaller arena (such as Nashville whose capacity is only 17,113) to have more of a fair look.

And for those of you reading I have a question. As the playoffs near the amount of business news will most likely become less and less because the focus of the media will shift towards the actual games. So, if you are reading and have any requests or statistics that you would like to see, please email me or just comment on any post and I will see what I can do.

Thanks for reading as always. Might be all for today so if not come on back tomorrow.

BallHype: hype it up!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Saturday Memo

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey...

One big story to report today...

- The Coyotes have apparently paid their bills (Arizona Republic).
"The team suspended its payments on Jobing.com Arena last August due to contract negotiations, Coyotes and city officials said last week. Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes is in talks with investors about taking a majority stake in the NHL team...

The Coyotes pay the city a $42,708 arena lease fee each month, plus a percentage of parking fees, sales tax, security costs and repairs. In return, the city took on $180 million in debt to build the arena five years ago."

Good news. Like I've said recently, the situation seems to be calming down and will probably stay quiet through playoffs. But after playoffs the Phoenix situation will be open season for the especially interested Canadian media.

- The cup changed everything last year for the NHL, as that was there promo slogan for the 2008 playoffs. Below is one of the ads which focuses the feeling behind each shift in a game:

With the season coming to a close in about a month, I'm sure the NHL has something lined up so be on the lookout.

Hopefully more later.

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Friday Memo

News and Notes from around the Business World of Hockey...

- Three NHL Clubs are in the Top 10 of BizJournals new complete listing of all sports teams from the four major leagues in terms of being most successful in the calendar year of 2008. Five NHL clubs are in the top twenty (BizJournals). Here's the top five:
  • 4. Montreal Canadiens
  • 7. Detroit Red Wings
  • 10. Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 12. San Jose
  • 18. Philadelphia Flyers
- As much as the Lighthouse project for the Islanders has had some great momentum of late, an interesting clause was found that states the Islanders will leave if the Lighthouse does not get the OK (Newsday).
"The transformation of the Coliseum, including the sports complex and associated parking," the developers' report states, "is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars [and] is essential if the New York Islanders are to remain. In order to absorb the cost of this transformation, it is necessary to develop the remainder of the components of the Lighthouse. Thus, if the Lighthouse is not approved and developed in a manner that can financially support the transformation of the Coliseum, the New York Islanders will leave this venue."
Hamilton here we come!

- The Stanley Cup Playoffs broadcasting changes up a bit this year. (Puck The Media)

More later.

Update, 2:00 PM EST:

- The San Jose Sharks have called the HP Pavilion their home for 15 years, and in that time span the Sharks and the Shark Tank have reportedly contributed around $1.7 Billion of business around the arena (MSNBC).
"The facility has also provided San Jose annually with direct fiscal impacts of $5.4 million and with an ongoing economic impact of $254 million and the creation of approximately 5,000 full-time equivalent jobs"
So hockey works in California.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

NHL Nearing A Business Peak?

The 2008 All Star Game in Atlanta

The NHL is on pace for another record season in terms of overall revenue, ticket sales, average attendance, and TV ratings (the last since the lockout). The economy has reached new lows and every expert is forecasting hard times for the sports industry. How much danger is our sport in? A little, I think.

First, lets take a look at the Hockey Related Revenues of the past decade (click to enlarge. NOTE: the pre-lockout revenues are totals of team revenues, thus making them estimate/ballpark figures. Exact figures were not available to me):

Since the lockout, the NHL's revenue has grown just over 16% to about $2.6 Billion. Everyone has heard Commissioner Bettman's projections for this year, starting at definite growth to recent reports indicating flat or slight loss of revenue. In this economy, staying at a flat rate around the current $2.6 Billion would definitely be a great accomplishment. If the league comes through with a 1% growth as I have projected, it would be another added success for the league. But, until the economy recovers (which may take 3-5 years), I do not see the NHL growing more than 1-2% in terms of revenue per year. At the same time, if the NHL were to flatten or drop in revenue for the next couple of seasons, it wouldn't surprise me the least because I think the NHL is reaching a business peak either now or in the near future.

Why do I think this? As it says right on the homepage of this site, 43% of the leagues revenue in 2007-2008 came from ticket sales. The NHL is a gate-driven league, and I don't think anyone is in a position to argue against this. Take a look at the NHL average attendance over the years (click to enlarge):

The league average attendance is at an all-time high, and if the pace continues for the rest of this season, the league will set a new record along with most likely passing the NBA in average attendance. But, say the season ended yesterday and the 17,338 average stood for this season. The NHL does not have much room to move to expand in terms of attendance, as the average capacity in the NHL is 18,446 (take average of NHL Arena capacities). Thus, unless teams are selling over 100% capacity (which some do), the NHL average attendance cannot go any higher than 18,446.

So, what can the NHL do to continue/keep its growth and revenue going? There are simple and raw ideas everywhere such as relocation, contraction, expansion, and taking a cut to get back on ESPN. I have three keys that I think will keep the financial stability of the league up along with possibly fueling the league for future growth when the economy turns around.
  • Be Very Cautious with the Salary Cap
Since being implemented in 2005, the NHL Salary Cap has jumped nearly $20 Million from the original $39 Million in '05-'06 to this seasons $56.7 Million. Raising the cap at $5-6 Million a year is something I never understood. What is the big rush? It seems as though the league has forced some giant contracts with such rapid inflation of the cap. Next seasons salary cap will suffer because of these jumps, as the cap will either stay flat or drop.

Just google something about bad or worst sports contracts and you will get millions of opinions on the worst ones ever signed or how huge deals are killing sports. As a Ranger fan, I cringed when I heard the amount Wade Redden got this summer. The economy slow down which is no doubt having an influence on the cap might be the best thing for it, as a couple of seasons of the cap staying flat or dipping probably wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to the league. At the same time, don't get me wrong, a top NHL player making $7 Million a year compared to Manny Ramirez making over $20 Million a year isn't fair. But you have to consider the economies at scale.
  • Get Creative with Television
As the late Jack Fallah would agree with me, Hockey and Television was not a good mix from the start. It has gotten better, much better, but at the same time Hockey and Television has never really taken off, with the exception of the mid-'90s on FOX. What do I mean by creativity? How about splitting networks, adding networks, or just getting back on FOX or ESPN? At the same time, I think the broadcasting of hockey could benefit from new technology. Mr. Fallah never liked how the camera would zoom too far in on the puck, not allowing him to see players away from the puck, which is where an important part of Hockey is played, and I would have to agree.

Look, the NHL on TV is like a marriage for business purposes. Of course it helps and the relationship is OK, but everything is not there. I do not have any magic answers, I just wish the NHL would get creative and serious in exploring their options for broadcasting the league.
  • The Obvious, Fix Two Franchises A.S.A.P.
I saved the most obvious for last. To me, some money the NHL earns falls between the cracks because of how much the league has to support struggling franchises in certain markets. Every league has gone through situations like this, and some successful franchises this season were once in trouble no less than 5 to 10 years ago. But, with the economy struggling to early 1990's levels, stopping the bleeding would greatly benefit the league on the bottom line. There could be many ways to do this, and I'm not sure what would be the best and most efficient, but something has to be done.

In general, I think the league is looking up and is in good position to deal with the economic struggles. I see no real reason as to why playoff ticket sales will struggle (besides the markets being in the toilet), as many fans save up for this certain time of year. Bettman and company are saying the playoff tickets will be an indicator for next season. I somewhat agree with this, but retaining current season ticket holders will be an even bigger indicator. If many teams do not reach a flat level of retention, the NHL could experience its first drop in average attendance in three years.


Attendance: Andrew's Stars Page
Revenues: Andrew's, Daniel Tolensky
TV Ratings: Andrew's

BallHype: hype it up!