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Choose My Sweater

July 23, 2010

It’s been a pretty busy week for this blog and I decided to end it on a bit of a fun note.

It only makes sense that someone that writes about the connection between punk rock and hockey also plays in a band. Well, this weekend I play my first show with my new band and I have a difficult decision to make.

I decided that for every set I play with this band, I want to wear a hockey sweater. Well I decided for this first show, I’d let my readership choose which crest I wear over my chest.

Below are the options with a poll.

Blackhawks Red/Blackhawks White/Original Blue Jackets Blue/

Original Coyotes White/Devils White/CHL Indianapolis Ice/

Original Lightning Black/Panthers Red/Original Predators Blue

Finally, if you’re in the Indianapolis-area this weekend and you’d like to come out, all the info can be found here. My band, Indianapolis Forever, plays at 2pm.

Is Sunbelt Hockey Working? Part III

July 22, 2010
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I had originally intended to make this a single post, but I feared that the length and density of it would dissuade some from reading it. So instead I have opted to make it into a three-part series spread over the next several days. If you’d like to read the full post now, please click here. My only request is that all feedback is placed within the comments section on either this post or the others in this series.

So is Sunbelt hockey working?

I would say, yes. Honestly, when I started this process, I didn’t expect to see much information that would produce any sort of meaningful conclusion. I figured the numbers would either prove nothing was changing or would be inconclusive. Instead, what I encountered was a lot of evidence that seemed to be proving that these teams were leading to a rather large increase in interest.

For those of us north of the Mason-Dixon Line, it can be rather easy to dismiss low attendance numbers and declare that our commissioner is an idiot for keeping teams in the South. Yet, we’ve had the game with us our whole lives. For most of us the game, in some sense, is part of our region, our state, our community. Sure, before “The Trade” there was Sunbelt hockey, but never to this scale, never like it has been since teams started coming South.

Read more…

Is Sunbelt Hockey Working? Part II

July 21, 2010
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I had originally intended to make this a single post, but I feared that the length and density of it would dissuade some from reading it. So instead I have opted to make it into a three-part series spread over the next several days. If you’d like to read the full post now, please click here. My only request is that all feedback is placed within the comments section on either this post or the others in this series.

Since I’m on the topic of the “Sunbelt Era”, which I’m counting from August 9th, 1988 to Present, let’s examine the makeup of the NHL since “The Trade.”

“The Trade” is often considered the event that really pushed Sunbelt hockey really into being. That moment seems to be the point where people began to believe that hockey could survive, if not, thrive below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Using this date as a guideline, I decided to see if this era has produced more Southern NHL players than previously in the league’s history.

To collect the information for this portion of my study, I used the data made available from hockey-reference.com. I took the birth place of every player that made their NHL debut in the pre-Sunbelt Era (1918-1993) to those who played their first game in the Sunbelt Era (1994-Present).

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Is Sunbelt Hockey Working? Part I

July 20, 2010
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I had originally intended to make this a single post, but I feared that the length and density of it would dissuade some from reading it. So instead I have opted to make it into a three-part series spread over the next several days. If you’d like to read the full post now, please click here. My only request is that all feedback is placed within the comments section on either this post or the others in this series.

As I mentioned in my primer, I’ve heard for years that hockey in the Sunbelt just isn’t working. That although the teams have had moments of high fan interest, for the most part, they suffer from public apathy. While I’ll acknowledge that the Sunbelt teams lack a traditionally solid fan base comparatively to their northern counterparts, it has just always seemed to me that the southern teams based their entire future on assembling a group of loyal supporters from the ground up.

If the Sunbelt teams were nothing more than an attempt by Bettman and Co. to increase visibility for the game in the States, then one must then assume that the best way to measure its success is through the youth. While the theory put into practice at the start of franchises like the Tampa Bay Lightning was to attract snowbirds, anyone examining the long term success of a southern team must acknowledge that unless a core of supporters emerges the business will no longer be a fruitful venture.

Well how does one build a base?

Success? Maybe, but I find this answer at best, weak. If you have a fan base that only comes out in support of a successful team, then when that franchise hits the inevitable down period in terms of winning percentage, no one will be there to watch a losing franchise. If this seems like an inaccurate argument look at southern franchises that had early success, but now spend their time in the lower end of the standings.

The answer to the question is simple, it’s youth.

Think about it hockey fans. While there will always be outliers, how many of you fell in love with the game via a team in your youth? How many of you have grown up with the game?

I know that as a child living in “The Region” during the early nineties,  it was the Chicago Blackhawks that got me hooked on the sport.

So in an attempt to see if Sunbelt hockey is panning out I think instead of checking attendance numbers or looking at profit margins, we should see if the youth in the south are playing the game.

Read more…

Best Time To Be A USA Hockey Fan/Sunbelt Research Primer

July 9, 2010

World Juniors Champions, U-18 Champions, Inline World Champions, Sled Hockey World Champions, Women’s Olympic Silver Medalists, Men’s Olympic Silver Medalists, 59 players taken in the draft, a record 10 in the First Round, 11 in the Second.

I cannot think of a better time to be a fan of USA Hockey.

All of these accolades are just the tip of the iceberg for what seems to be building as a great growth of the sport in the States. This all comes after the announcement by USA Hockey that they were instituting a new program to raise the retention rate of youth players. As an American hockey fan, I’m ecstatic about this development in recent years.

Although it has me thinking, has Bettman’s attempt to spread the sport to the sunbelt…actually paid off?

In a topic I plan to explore in a later post, has hockey in the sunbelt actually made the sport a fully American game? I know to anyone that isn’t really a hockey fan, this seems like a silly question with an obvious answer, but it must be asked as it seems to counter everything one hears about bringing hockey below the Mason/Dixon Line.

As a fan of a team in a sunbelt market and one in a traditional market, I’ve seen both go through periods of high attendance and complete apathy. Both cities have proven themselves to be solid markets completely capable of supporting a franchise. Although its always easier for an established hockey city like Chicago to support a team over a market of transplants like Tampa Bay.

I personally think that sunbelt cities can be great places for franchises, but like all things, time must be given to let the game grow. We’ve taken a sport of ice and placed it in a region that rarely goes below freezing in winter. Yes, for now, northern markets are outperforming southern ones, but what about in twenty years? I’m not saying that cities like Miami, Dallas or Tampa will become hockey meccas replacing places like Montreal, but if given time, could the game grow to where the markets became solid and respected?

This is a topic I intend to explore in future posts.

Punk Rock And Hockey: Outside Observers

July 7, 2010

While I do have a great interview with a band sitting on the back burner, I wanted to share some links from others in the hockey or punk rock communities that see the same connection I do.

We’ll start with Erin Nicks. I recently ventured on to her twitter page and came across the factoid that she absolutely loves punk rock. She is a huge Bad Religion fan and even named her blog after a BR song. We’ve briefly discussed the connection between punk and hockey over twitter and email. I decided to share the links she sent me with my readership as I now realize that a lot of you seem to think the same thing.

Read more…

Quick Thoughts On The First Day Of Free Agency

July 1, 2010

Some quick thoughts I’ve had thus far.

Last night the Hawks traded Kris Versteeg to Toronto. Although what the Hawks got in return was not equivalent to what they gave up, I’m so happy he’s gone. Steeger is a great player, but he was surrounded by so much talent in Chicago that he was unable to really flourish. Also, I’m really glad that we’re rid of a player that would continually try to skate around five defenders and deke the puck into the net instead of pass, is gone.

I’ve spent a lot of today focusing on the other team I love, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Thus far the new regime in Tampa has endeared me to them.

-First, they trade Meszaros to Philly for a second round pick. While I could have wished for more of a return, I’m glad him and his contract are no longer the Bolts’ problem.

-Then they allowed Tanguay to leave which is a plus.

-Finally, they resign Martin St. Louis. I’ll admit I’m biased since this guy is my favorite player, but the four-year extension is something Lightning fans have been hoping to see. Although he is getting up in years, he’s still a fantastic player and we’re all happy he’s staying.

Another interesting development that I’ve seen is the Sharks signing Antero “Watch me challenge your established starter for the job” Niittymaki. Is the intent to have him be the starter? If so, that’s quite a downgrade from Evgeni Nabokov. It’ll be interesting to see if they go out and get another goaltender.

Also, I will handsomely reward the person who can promise me that Pierre McGuire will no longer be on my TV.

Happy Free Agent Frenzy Day Everyone! And of course, Happy Canada Day!