The inspiration for this article came about as I was perusing the blogosphere brimming with critics lamenting the NHL’s decision to create its latest expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights. Most of what I read was petty grievances but a few complaints had some merit and are worthy of a response.
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One complainer, citing the Arizona Coyotes as an example, asked the question, “How can an NHL team expect to be successful in an area not suitable for ice hockey?” Another asked, “Why should the NHL be expanding at all when there are at least five teams already struggling to sell tickets?”
In Columbus, for example, rumor has it they’re singing the blues because the fans are obsessed with Ohio State and it’s hard to refocus their attention iceward. In sleepier markets, potential fans would rather relax at home than make the trip to their local hockey arena.
Regardless, I would remind doubters that Vegas is unlike any other place on earth. I can think of three different target audiences that are ripe for the picking when it comes to cultivating a full house at T-Mobile Arena. Can ya hear me now? (Oops wrong cellular network.)
In Vegas, people are in entertainment mode as soon as they step off at McCarran airport. Can you imagine a wealthy tourist from let’s say, China, not wanting to experience a professional hockey match? Sure, it’s doubtful they’d be interested in flying all the way to Pittsburgh or Detroit just to see one, but if they’re already in Vegas, why wouldn’t they go? For many tourists, it may be their first opportunity to see a live NHL game.
Clark County consists of approximately two million residents, a sizable portion of whom can regularly make the trip rinkside. Yes, the Golden Knights’ marketingand PR people will be tasked with hoisting their brand above the noise and fanfare to attract enough eyeballs to their offering, but with the possibility of all kinds of package deals that can be woven in with corporate outings and hotel accommodations, I just can’t see attendance from these sectors being a problem.
Am I supposed to believe that anyone who can afford the trip to Vegas won’t be champing at the bit for an excuse to support the local team? Just imagine the nearby Los Angeles Kings. Good seats will be hard to come by anytime the Kings come to town – as if us Angelenos need another excuse to go to Vegas.