Monday, August 11, 2008

The Southeast Division & the Canadian Hockey Media

Let’s talk about propaganda. Actually, let me be more specific than that. Let’s talk about the Canadian hockey media’s NHL propaganda.

And, in regards to that, let’s talk the NHL’s Southeast Division.

I frequently read Canadian sports websites for hockey news, and I’ve been doing that for years. To hear the Canadian hockey media tell it, the Southeast Division has no purpose, no reason to exist – when they even deign to acknowledge it at all. It’s the redheaded stepchild of the NHL.

It’s in their august opinion that the entire division ought to be relocated and scattered across Canada. Put hockey back where it belongs, they say. After all, no one watches hockey in the Sunbelt, and certainly no one goes to games. The NHL ought to just shut down the Southeast Division and put teams where they belong – in places like Halifax, Québec City, Hamilton, Winnipeg, and possibly even in places like Saskatoon or Medicine Hat. Saskatchewan needs an NHL team, right?

I hate to burst your hockey propaganda bubble, but your assessment of the Southeast Division isn’t exactly right. Perhaps two out of the five teams are struggling, but that leaves the other three doing alright. And, let’s not forget that two of the last four Stanley Cup champions have come from that division as well.

For instance, the Tampa Bay Lightning, whose record was rather dismal last season – dismal enough to win the first pick overall – still sold enough tickets so that the St. Pete Times Forum averaged out at 94.6% capacity (according to ESPN) for the entire season. Think about that for a second. The St. Pete Times Forum was on average 94.6% full all season for a losing team in Florida. The Detroit Red Wings were at 94.2% capacity (ESPN) during the regular season, and they won the Cup.

Hockey is alive and well in Tampa, thank you. Now can we all get over this ridiculous idea that Tampa is not a hockey city? And that they can’t draw crowds and don’t have a serious fan following other than the Snowbirds that come down every winter?

As compared with teams that many in the Canadian hockey media would consider having healthy hockey markets here in the US are (all numbers are from ESPN)

· Chicago – 82% capacity at home (#28 in the NHL for attendance at home)
· Boston – 82.6% capacity at home (#27 in the NHL for attendance at home)
· New Jersey – 88.3% capacity at home (new arena)

The rest of the Southeast Division does have lower numbers than Tampa

· Carolina – 88.8% capacity at home
· Atlanta – 85.3% capacity at home
· Washington – 82.9 % capacity at home
· Florida – 80.2% capacity at home (#30 in the NHL for attendance at home)

However, let me point out one simple fact. All of the teams in the Southeast Division – other than Florida, of course – had a higher attendance percentage than either Chicago or Boston last season, both of which are Original Six teams and both of which are considered established diehard hockey cities.

You may want to say that those numbers are from Boston and Chicago having poor seasons. Well, Washington was the only team in the Southeast Division to make it into playoffs. Not to mention, again, Tampa Bay coming in dead last out of 30 teams. And Boston made playoffs as well. So that excuse doesn’t exactly hold water.

So, seriously, why the bias? The numbers don’t hold up the opinions of the Canadian hockey media. Sure, it seems like moving teams to Canada would be a no-brainer. But then ask yourselves this: why did teams leave Winnipeg and Québec City if that was truly the case?

The reality is that there’s no guarantee that an NHL team will succeed in any Canadian city, just because it’s hockey and it’s Canada. Just like there’s no guarantee that hockey will succeed any American city. However, before you start spouting off things like the Southeast Division is failing because hockey doesn’t belong in the Sunbelt, look at the numbers and the facts. The Southeast Division isn’t failing. It’s doing just fine.

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harpman said...

The media and Canadian bias is evident each and every time a disputed play has to go to Toronto (that's "Trawna" in Canadian) to the NHL "War Room" for video review. NEVER have the Canadian judges ruled in favor of the Lightning on a call, and I've watched a LOT of Lightning hockey. They simply cannot deal with hockey in a climate that sees the sun 12 months a year and the water doesn't freeze a foot thick for 5. Get over it, eh? That's right bad, ya hosers. Just because the last time the Stanley Cup was in Canada is a long fading memory, doesn't mean you need to let your bias show, eh?

WufPirate said...

On both sides of the argument:

If I'm a Canadian and hockey is our national past time, I'm pissed that only 5 teams are in the country. So naturally, I'd say that the newest teams (excluding Washington) shouldn't be in an area where they're trying "grow" hockey.

If I'm a SouthEaster, I'd just say exactly everything you just said. Well done!

Cassie said...

Thanks. But you know, it's not that I don't think Canada ought to get more NHL teams. If it ends up that teams move there, then that's the way it goes. However, it annoys me that they have no respect for the Southeast Division. Oh well, what can you do, right?

(Oh, and there are 6 NHL teams in Canada: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montréal. I sometimes forget about Ottawa myself and think there are only 5. Sorry about that, Ottawa Senators and fans!)

Mishey22 said...

WufPirate -

I'm just wondering, how dos one grow hockey in an area that doesn't have hockey? I'm not trying to be rude or snotty, I just don't understand that logic.

Cassie -

I think you wrote a nice, well thought-out blog. Keep up the good work!