Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Total Fan Experience

The NHL, perhaps more than any professional sports league, prides itself on the in arena fan experience. It is one thing to tout the game experience, but can it be measured? ESPN The Magazine has just completed their 7th Annual Ultimate Standings, ranking all franchises in the NHL, NFL, NBA, and MLB on the following criteria:

Bang For The Buck (BNG)- Wins during the past three years (regular and post season) per revenue directly from fans.

Fan Relations (FRL)- Openness and consideration toward fans by players, coaches, and management.

Ownership (OWN)- Honesty and loyalty to core players and local community

Affordability (AFF)- Price of tickets, parking, and concessions.

Stadium Experience (STX)- Quality of the arena and game day promotions as well as the friendliness of the environment.

Players (PLA)- Effort on the field and likability off it.

Coaching (CCH)- Strength of off field leadership.

Title Track (TTR)- Championships won or expected in the lifetime of current fans.

There are 122 professional sports teams in the four major professional sports leagues. The Tennessee Titans of the NFL ranked 15th overall; the Nashville Predators ranked 37th overall using these criteria. In the NHL, the Predators ranked 11th in the 30 team league- a very good showing for this young franchise. The 30 teams in the NHL ranked as follows:

1. Carolina Hurricanes

2. Detroit Red Wings

3. Washington Capitals

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

5. St. Louis Blues

6. Anaheim Ducks

7. Chicago Blackhawks

8. Dallas Stars

9. Columbus Blue Jackets

10. San Jose Sharks

11. Nashville Predators

12. New Jersey Devils

13. Ottawa Senators

14. Philadelphia Flyers

15. Boston Bruins

16. Calgary Flames

17. Buffalo Sabres

18. Minnesota Wild

19. Colorado Avalanche

20. Vancouver Canucks

21. Tampa Bay Lightning

22. Phoenix Coyotes

23. Florida Panthers

24. New York Rangers

25. Los Angeles Kings

26. Montreal Canadiens

27. Edmonton Oilers

28. Atlanta Thrashers

29. New york Islanders

30. Toronto Maple Leafs

Taking a look at the Predators, here is how the stack up according to their score for each rating category (the number accompanying each category is their rank in comparison to all teams in all leagues):

BNG: 59

FRL: 15

OWN: 61

AFF: 16

STX: 30

PLA: 36

CCH: 39

TTR: 85

The Preds rank very high in fan relations, and anyone that has had contact with the staff at a Predators game knows that this ranking is well deserved. They also rank high in the stadium experience, with only 8 NHL teams ranking higher. Growing the game in a "non-traditional" market requires a high level of customer service and an exceptional game experience, and the Preds are very successful in both areas. Anyone that has had the experience of a game in the Sommet Center knows that it is a visual, entertaining event for the entire family. A great arena experience will only carry a team so far, however, and the on-ice product has to be successful as well. Ten NHL teams rank ahead of the Predators in the category of Players- effort and likability. Eight NHL teams rank ahead of the Predators in Coaching- strength of off field (or ice) leadership. The Predator players are known to be competitive on the ice- not the most talented, but one of the hardest working teams in the NHL. The players are also known to be good citizens, active in the community in many charitable causes and contributors to the quality of life we enjoy here in Nashville. The strength of the Predators through the years has been Coach Barry Trotz and the coaching staff, currently assistant coaches Peter Horachek, Brent Peterson, and Robert Bouchard. This coaching staff has done a marvelous job of squeezing every drop of talent out of the players on the ice, and the stability of the staff is critical to the success of the team. The area that hurt the Preds in the overall rankings was the Title Track- championships won or expected in the lifetime of the current fans. Only six teams ranked lower in the NHL than the Preds, and this is indicative of our lack of playoff success with the team failing in four attempts to get past the first round of the playoffs. Finally, Ownership- loyalty to core players and local community were ranked 20th out of 30 NHL teams. I can only guess that this is due to the recent ownership changes and the uncertainty of the ownership of the disgraced "Boots" del Biaggio's 27% interest that is currently in question. I can speak for all of Pred nation in saying that we are grateful for local ownership and their commitment to the Nashville market.

These are obviously subjective variables, but they are variables that have an impact on every fan that crosses through the turnstile to watch a sporting event. They are variables that management has to focus upon because fans are becoming even more discriminating in the expenditure of their sports and entertainment dollars. The focus becomes more intense for a franchise that is establishing roots in a relatively new market. The Predators have shown they can be successful in entertaining the fans and providing a great game experience and a credible on ice product. They have to build on what works, both on and off the ice, to continue to be successful.

1 comment:

  1. For a "non-traditional market", it's noteworthy that the Preds ranked above all six Canadian teams.