As a Carolina Hurricanes hockey fan and a Season Ticket Member, at that, I am accustomed to seeing MANY opposing NHL team jerseys during our home games. There are two reasons for this:
- North Carolina is simply a wonderful place to live. Many people move here and do not defect to their new home team.
- Carolina Hurricanes tickets are among the cheapest in the league. For some teams, it’s actually worth the cost of travel to come here rather than pay absurd ticket prices to see their team play in their city.
When the New York Rangers come to town, embattled Canes fans refer to our beloved PNC Arena as Madison Triangle Gardens, due to the sea of blue jerseys. If the Rangers score, it is just as loud, if not louder, than when the Canes score. It can have a demoralizing effect on the team as well as the fans. This, in turn, hurts the brand. The sea of blue jerseys when the team’s color is red tells would-be fans that the Canes couldn’t even fill their own arena with their own fans. This does not help when there are constant rumors popping up about the team leaving. All of this would lead a casual fan to question why they should invest time and money on the Carolina Hurricanes.
The visitors jersey conundrum
We have joked about banning visitors jerseys, but hockey is hockey, right? Everyone is there to enjoy a spirited game. Plus, I’m sure the Canes and the PNC Arena are more than happy to take any hockey fan’s money, no matter which jersey they are wearing.
As you all probably know, there are four teams left in the Stanley Cup Championships. The Tampa Bay Lightning are currently battling the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Eastern Conference Finals and they recently released a statement that does just that. The Amalie Arena is banning licensed Penguins gear in certain seating areas. Since it’s not an outright ban and the only affected areas are those that are most visible on TV, there is speculation that this is more about brand protection than team spirit.
Regardless of the motivation, I have to side with the Tampa Bay Lightning on this decision.
The Penguins have been around much longer and have a larger fan base. With its warm weather and beautiful beaches, Florida is ripe for northern transplants that aren’t likely to defect from their “home” team.
A prime opportunity
Being this close to the Stanley Cup Finals means more eyes on the team. Championship games typically get more viewers than regular season games, so this is a prime opportunity to convert casual Tampa Bay fans into hardcore fans. Like any marketing manager, I would want casual fans to see those hardcore fans in the lower bowl seats donning Tampa Bay Lightning jerseys and flair. I want casual fans to see the joy of the team and the fans when they score and hopefully win. I want those casual fans to be desperate to join in the fun. Ultimately, any marketing team wants to see casual fans convert to hardcore fans. This will manifest itself in increased ticket sales, merchandise sales and Season Ticket Memberships.
A controversial decision
Though dictating the apparel of fans who paid good money to be there is controversial, it isn’t new to the NHL or even the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’ve issued this policy before and yes, it may upset some Penguins fans that reside in Florida, but those aren’t the consumers that the Tampa Bay organization needs to be concerned about, in my opinion. In the end, Tampa Bay needs to preserve its brand and make the most of this unique opportunity to woo new fans.