Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Hockey's Insane Fan (Dis)Service

As long as I can remember, hockey has been one of the big four sports in America. However, over time hockey has clearly fallen behind the big two and probably basketball as well in the hearts and minds of everyone south of Canada. As well, as soccer rises in popularity hockey is in danger of losing even the fourth slot - although soccer's rise should be stunted by the fact that our national players and team sucked so badly that they lost to Trinidad & Tobago and therefore will not be in the next World Cup.

Anyway, hockey should be looking to grow its fan base. The positive for hockey in this attempt is the fact that it has an established minor league system which can be used to draw people nearby into local arenas at lower prices and build their loyalty to the NHL teams the minor league teams are affiliated with.

The negative is that since hockey requires an ice rink or an arena where you can freeze the floor for games (and presumptively for practice), it's not as easy for a hockey arena to pop up as a baseball field or a soccer pitch. Hence, they aren't quite as common and traveling to a hockey arena can be a bit of a trip. Personally, I've got an SPHL team (Knoxville Ice Bears) about 90 minutes out and there are teams at a four to six hour distance in the SPHL, FHL, ECHL, AHL, and NHL. As you might imagine, I have to set aside a good portion of a day to go see the Ice Bears and unless its a day game a trip to see the others involves an overnight stay (with the hotel room canceling out any savings from going to a minor league game and making an NHL game even more expensive).

What's the solution to this? Well, I looked for the same solution baseball has come to: multi-media live streaming of MLB ($125 for all teams), the affiliated minors ($50 for all AAA, all AA, and the majority of A+ & A), and unaffiliated baseball (mostly free). Heck, soccer has bettered this with streaming of the MLS going for $80 and the USL streaming its games free of charge on YouTube. So, when I looked to when I looked to hockey's multimedia live streams I had a pretty good idea of what a rational price meant to bolster and grow the fan base looks like.

At $140, the NHL's price for all its games is fine, but Hockey's minor leagues are clinically insane:
AHL (AAA) - - - - - $299
ECHL (AA) - - - - - $199
SPHL (Indy/A) - - -$199
FHL (Indy/A) - - - - Not Yet Posted
Keep in mind as you look at those prices that these are being advertised as their "early-bird specials." At first I thought maybe they were all referencing some sort of giant package like the one MiLB sells for all its AAA, all its AA, and a lot of other teams. However, nothing indicates that in any of their sales pages and the differences in the price for the AHL would tend to disprove it. Also, the discount offered by the AHL is $50, the ECHL is $30, and the SPHL is $20 indicating that when the "specials" go away they will all have different prices.

There's no way that I'm going to pay those prices. Let's compare again: almost all of minor league baseball: $50. The remaining soccer minor league: FREE. Hockey (if all the currently available minor league packages purchased): $500

Yeah, I'm not doing that. And you shouldn't either. If minor league hockey is that dumb about leaving money on the floor and the NHL isn't smart enough to step in and stop a price point that discourages people from becoming engaged at all levels (following players as they rise, following local affiliated teams and thus being drawn into the top team), I can take a hint. Hockey isn't interested in me or my dollars. There are other places I can spend them.

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