Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This I Used to Believe, Part 2: Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Hamilton Predators!

Forget Hamilton. Forget Balsillie. Forget “Make it 7”. Forget 14,000.   Forget Leopold.  Forget Boots.   Forget Bankruptcy.  Ladies and Gentlemen, these are your Nashville Predators.

End of story.

A Focus on the Future

This article is not about the troubles.  If you knew them, you knew them all too well.  If you are unfamiliar, don’t worry too much... its all just history at this point.  This is an article about why the Preds are better off, and what to say to those who think otherwise.

I think that this season has served as an inflection point, and that 2010 will be the year that people look back and say “that was the year the Predators came into their own.”

The Four Changes for the Have Saved the Predators

1) 14,000’s no longer a struggle:  In previous seasons, especially before the lockout, former owner Craig Leopold and the Predators were having trouble getting people in the stands.  Post lockout, and post new ownership group, this has not been a problem.  This year especially, the Predators were confident early on in the year that they would make the 14,000 magic number.  There was no talk of the ownership group having to buy remaining tickets.  Instead, all that we have seen are creative, effective marketing campaigns and an attendance number that is beating last years, despite the worst economic times since the great depression.

2) Ownership that knows how to sell in this community.  The prior ownership seemed to try to get local sponsorships by guilting them into a deal.  “We have the fans, we just don’t have corporate backing.  Support Nashville by Supporting the Preds.”  Such logic is hardly convincing.  Contrast that with the recent flurry of sponsorship activity, Bridgestone, Ford, Petron, Softwick, A.D. Vallet. etc.  Its clear that this group knows how to convincingly make the case to local business to support the team: because it adds value to your business.  The marketing team has also done a fantastic job of marketing to the casual fan, a winning strategy in a relatively new hockey market.

3) Phoenix:  After all of former Preds’ vulture suitor, billionaire Jim Balsillie’s maneuvering in the desert last summer, Phoenix still has a team.  It will take an act of nature to rip the Predators out of Nashville. 

4)  The Playoffs:  Ok, I’m going to go out on a limb on this one, but I truly believe that this will be the year the Predators make a little noise in the playoffs.  If they do, it may be the last factor that shores up this franchise once and for all.

To Those Who Don’t Believe Me

Despite ALL of the positive steps this franchise has taken, there are still bumps in the road. Naysayers abound. 

The troubles that have peppered the Predators past have created two types of people, the Anti-fan, and the indifferent pessimist. 

The Indifferent Pessimist:  This person is does not necessarily know too much about the team, but simply knows that the team used to be in trouble.  Thus, the IP assumes this is still true.  Occasionally they may read a headline, whether it was true in 2008 or now in 2010 is just a hack-job, (for example, Paul McCann did a great job of taking the Tennessean’s Nate Rau to task, on one such article/headline published this week.)

My response: A half condescending, half friendly laugh.  No.  The team’s here, for good, and they are doing great.  Any troubles you hear of are just manufactured to sell copy.  I’d go watch a game soon before they sell out... yes, that’s right, sell out.

The Anti-fan:  The Anti-Fan actively thinks the Preds need to leave town.  Whether their reasons are thought out, I will leave for them to argue.  Here’s an example, from the comments section of the Rau piece I mentioned above.  This is “ThumbodyThed’s” reaction to the headline Predators Will Stay in Nashville until 2012:

I was having a pretty good day until I read this headline. Shucks! "Soccer on ice" needs to go. It has no place in the South, especially Nashville. Because of all the hype, I tried once again to watch it, when the USA and Canada played, but this sports fanatic still can't stomach it. A few years back when they experimented with an orange puck, I became a little more interested, as at least I could follow the object of the game. Then they dropped that, and I gave up again.

My favorite part about this comment:  Two years ago they permeated the message boards.  Now, you have to really struggle to find one. 

My Response:  You’re right, to the uninitiated it can be tough to follow the puck, especially if you are watching in standard definition.  This month, as the playoff race is in full gear, watch a game in HD, or better yet, go to a game.  I promise you will be entertained.  If you are not, no harm, no foul.  But listen... The predators are here to stay.  You can gripe if that angers you, you can plead ignorance if the game seems foreign to you, and you can complain while no one listens to you.  Take my advice, though.  When April rolls around, the playoffs are going to be the best game in town.  Get a ticket, I’d be happy to walk you through the basic X’s and O’s.

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