Thursday, August 20, 2015

Interleague Junior Hockey?

In the Canadian Hockey League, particularly in the Western Hockey League, something I'm more familiar with due to my geographical placement, their has been an increased level of stagnancy amongst the casual junior hockey fan, the type of fan that for all intents and purposes drives the league due to the watered down product, lack of player identifiability, and overall flow of the game, although to comment on the flow of the game opens up a completely different can of worms that focuses on the state of the game of hockey, not independently focusing on the Canadian Hockey League which is the primary focus of this piece. To bring the casual fan back into the fold we need to assess what we can do to strengthen the league's brand which brings me to my premise. Because I'm from Regina, I'll use the example involving the Regina Pats participating in the rigorous Western Hockey League schedule. The way the schedule is currently constructed, as a member of the Eastern Division, they suit up against divisional opponents eight times  a year while playing their eastern conference counterparts in the central division four times a piece. In the Western Conference, they play each time once, rotating on a bi-yearly basis to whether they travel to the oppositions locale, or whether the opponent comes to the friendly Brandt Center confines. To play any team eight times a year(four at home, four on the road), is probably more then needed although I do appreciate the league's desire to strengthen divisional rivalries. What can be done to prevent on a random Tuesday evening, to have the lowly(very lowly if you're just looking at 2014-2015) Saskatoon Blades trotting into town and the Brandt Center playing to not even half capacity? Well, it's a natural inevitability that these "meaningless" games on the schedule will happen, just the nature of sport but what I'm about to propose is the Canadian Hockey League creating interleague rivalries, whether that means partaking in a home and home series, or to save the league money, have Team A travel to Team B in year one with the same teams meeting the following year at the opposite venue. As someone who was privy to the 2001 Memorial Cup, having the opportunity to see the likes of the Ottawa 67's and the Val'dor Foreurs creates a level of unforeseen fandemonium not seen often. Using my aforementioned example of the Blades taking on the Pats on a random Tuesday evening, just imagine the revenue stream that would take place if on that very same evening the Pats instead took on the likes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Having a basic understanding of what makes the average Western Canadian hockey fan tick, I wouldn't even lay a drop of hesitation by saying that these games would sell out, Tuesday, Saturday, just wouldn't matter. I'm no mathematician, but by doing a few simple calculations, basing off of the assumption that the average gate draws 3000 fans, in a venue that seats 6500 where on average individual ticket prices go for $20, that's an average revenue stream of $60,000 on a regular night where in an interleague game you're looking at about a $130,000 revenue hit. A $70,000 increase certainly makes it worth while as a feasible marketing chip the Canadian Hockey can use to grow the game and bring back patrons who have given up on the product.  Just pertaining to the Western Hockey League again, it's been no secret that some of the franchises like the Kootenay Ice and Swift Current Broncos are in dire need financially so why not get innovative and guarantee two sell-outs where otherwise sell-outs are a pure pipe dream.


Brett Murray

twitter: @bretzky26

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