With a potentially tough season on the way for fans, and possibly a lock-out the year after, the HQ wonders if MLSE shouldn't be taking steps to ensure fans "stick around..."
The National Hockey League has in recent years been looked at as the poor cousin of the other three major sports leagues; the NBA, the NFL and MLB.
However over the past couple of seasons, the NHL has also been the most innovative league in many ways, pioneering the use of social media and the online environment, and since the last CBA, showing a larger amount of fiscal restraint than its richer brothers, all of which could be headed for major labor disputes in the near future.
This past week, I read another example of how the NHL is using innovative techniques to "flip the script" in terms of the way it approaches its relationships, this time with fans.
The St. Louis Blues are offering a sort of "playoff guarantee to fans." They are asking fans to pay only half of the price of certain season tickets up front, the other half payable if and when the Blues' secure a playoff birth.
It's a very interesting idea.
Essentially the Blues are saying to fans that they come first, and that the club is dedicated to improving and making the NHL's big dance, every team's main goal each year.
If I'm a Blues fan I love this idea. It's rare in today's sports world that you get the feeling the fans mean much, especially to clubs like the Toronto Maple Leafs who take a packed arena for granted each night.
So why don't more teams do this?
Well, obviously there's a large financial gamble attached.
Don't make the playoffs and your team could be out a big chunk of change, something that in effect would potentially hinder the club from continuing to improve the following season.
As well, there's a bit of a stigma of desperation attached. It's hard to picture a tradition-tested club like the Lakers or even the Celtics (who did have their lows in the early 2000's) stooping to a gimmick like this.
But doesn't it make sense?
I couldn't help but read the article and think that this is something the Toronto Raptors should consider.
As we discussed earlier this off-season, attendance has been dropping the past couple of seasons, and with the club looking to be one of the league's worst record-wise this coming season, and a lock-out looming, wouldn't such a move make a great deal of sense?
I won't get into it in great detail here, but the lock-out should be a big concern for Raptors' fans. You've gotta wonder just how powerful an impact such a labour-stoppage would have on the Dinos, especially if they come off a 20ish win season where fan interest is obviously dwindling, and frustration with management continues to mount.
We've seen how losing, work stoppages and fiscal restraints have hurt the Jays over the past decade plus, and that was a team with a winning culture through most of the 80's and into the early 90's.
It's hard not to think that the Raps would be hit even harder, and that some sort of way to "give back" to fans isn't something the Raptors and MLSE shouldn't be considering.