No, money does not grow on trees. That much is certainly true unless we're talking about fruits and nuts.
Hockey teams do have the opportunity to plant a different type of seed that can go a great distance to bringing in the green.
It is fair to say that hockey's saturation of the southern markets was a total failure. At one point, Louisiana had seven minor pro teams, now they are have none. Texas pro hockey is all but gone. Atlanta's National Hockey League team was a colossal disaster. Why?
The Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars both entered their non-traditional markets and made substantial investments to create a hockey community. Tampa Bay's numbers are certainly impressive. The Panthers sustain themselves by catering to a thriving community of northerners. Both Nashville and Arizona have done well too.
There is more to establishing a new market than building a fancy barn and shipping a bunch of players to town to entertain the locals. Cheap beer and blood will only carry a franchise so long. Folks want substance, something they can sink their teeth into, something they can relate to.
Teams have to get to the kids. My daughter will be fifteen this year and has me wrapped around her finger. I did not understand the concept of shoes that light up like a state police cruiser, but when she was five, that's all she had to do was ask. I found the sketchers. They looked like something out of a science fiction movie, but the smile on that little girl's face made my day. She's still pulling the same tricks ten years later.
Hockey parents know what I'm talking about. We just find a way to make them happy.
That is what hockey teams need to do, become embraced by the kids. I have preached this concept for years, and will tell you all this again. Make Mondays all about the children. From September to June, players should be assigned to different schools that they volunteer at weekly for the entire season. I don't care where the team is based or what league the team is playing in, as soon as those children are able to identify with the player, that young man has his own fans for life.
Once teams are able to get into the hearts of the children, the parents, and their wallets will follow.
The bottom line is simple. Get to the kids and you win the heart of the community. It also helps to give parents an entertainment option that they will not regret exposing their children to. Audible profanity and nightly brawls are not going to cut it.
Any farmer will say this; the seeds have to be planted before a harvest. Unless we are talking about the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, every team would like to see more butts in the seats. What does any operator have to lose?