How can the Panthers fill their rink?

With single game tickets going on sale early Friday morning, I spurred a debate on the Twitter by suggesting that ticket sales would be on the rise for the upcoming 2014-2015 season. Aside from the usual scoffs at the notion that the Panthers can get people in the building, there were some good points made about the slow but sure culture change that is going on in Pantherland.

It is no secret that I have professed my belief in the “Hockey is the business” model for the Panthers and from what I have seen, the ownership and front office seem to agree. The Panthers have spent big on free agent day and are poised to ice a line-up that they believe to be a competitive one. The Panthers spent big in 2011 and went into the year with a Frankenstein team that ended up winning the Southeast Division. This year the Panthers spent their money filling out a roster with a young and rising core with key and complementary players that will each contribute in their own way.

This orchestra conducted by Dale Tallon and backed by his ownership team all lead up to two variables that directly correlate to one another: Fans in the stands and wins on the score sheets.

Over the last 5 years you can see a shift in capacity percentage at the BB&T Center

Year Capacity Percentage Record
2008-2009 78.7 32-37-13
2010-2011 81.5 30-40-12
2011-2012 86.4 38-26-18
2012-2013 88.3 15-27-6
2013-2014 75.5 29-45-8

Source: http://www.hockeyattendance.com/team/florida-panthers/

A lot goes in to the attendance of an NHL team but the common denominator is always the on ice product. Fans will watch a team that they think can win games. That’s sports fans 101, nothing new. You can see a steady increase in attendance from 2008-2012 that culminates in the season following the Southeast Division Championship and subsequent first round elimination. Unfortunately that momentum was met with the team’s worst finish in 5 years leading up to their worst attendance in the same span.

If the fans don’t expect wins then the team shouldn’t expect the fans.

So what makes this year different? Is this year even going to be different? I’ll spare you the optimistic rant but Tallon’s rebuild is in full swing. The core is there, the complimentary parts have been acquired and the team is poised to ice the most competitive version of themselves that the league has seen in a long while.

The marketing side has done its job to set the tone for the upcoming season. They have started to build fan pride and unity with their “One Under The Sun” slogan. They have created and upheld the buzz of the youth movement with the “Be Here to Witness” campaign. In addition to the posters and social media efforts, Tallon was also fairly blunt about the acquisition of Roberto Luongo being as much of a marketing move as it was a hockey move. Tallon was right to do it; Luongo’s presence has not only excited the fans but brought a media relevance that the Panthers have lacked in recent years.

These actions appear to have the market ready to go for the 2013-2014 season but it ultimately comes down to the on-ice product. The Panthers on ice play will dictate if the initial surge of season-opening attendance will linger or taper off.

When a fan base is used to a losing team and starving for a winning one, the sheer notion of competitive hockey can be enough to bring fans in. I think that this will be the driving force behind the resurgence of the attendance at the BB&T Center. The fans will slowly realize that this team is V.2 of a rebuilt squad that is slowly coming into its own. They will see the dynamic youth, the scoring veterans, the entertaining goaltending and be drawn in as they have in the past.

The Panthers have a tough task ahead of them, but they are primed to surprise and with that the seats will be filled.

Comments

  1. Jeff - Panthers FAN says:

    Dear ‘Joke’ (aka Joe)- take your trash elsewhere with your lame jokes as the other person said. We are small as the author of this article says but we fight hard and we love strong and we bleed orange cat blood LOL.

    This may not be that interesting or complete (some more on that in a minute) but why be a hater? The guys trying to create excitement and and you are pissing on it for NO good reason. Also, I bet he doesn’t get paid and is doing this in his freetime. If you don’t like GREAT PANTHERS coverage at an AFFORDIBLE PRICE (in other words, Free) then LEAVE. I have loved the Panthers since they came up and I may not go to games but that’s not the only thing either. Some people are too busy or have health or family issues or want to be with family- not all of them will like hockey. And the economy also means people are working hard- even if tickets are ‘cheap’. Also, we have many Cubans and Latinos and they’re not going to be raised on their sports like soccer and baseball or other hobbies like swimming than just switch (not being racist, just being real). So there are plenty of GOOD reasons beyond interest for low fan numbers. I would love to go more but I still read and nobody sees all the numbers on reading either because of how many good places there are not just like this but also NHL.com, espn and some Canadian content too, and NHL fan boards and facebook. If they tracked me I would probably be a Bruins fan because where I live but I am really not that because they can’t ask.

    So you know where the door is if this isn’t ‘good enough for you’. Just click on the door and say bye bye!!

    (Tried to be respectful and didn’t swear but sick of getting crapped on for being a BIG Panthers fan)

  2. Win and be consistently good, its simple as that unfortunately. I think there is a good chance for the Panthers to keep connecting with the Northwest Broward fans and Boca fans more then any other team in South Florida. But I am a someone who was brought up on them, it just takes time and a winning culture.

  3. Actually this post did quite well. Please take this nonsense elsewhere, guy. Thanks!

  4. I see that you’ve spurned another debate here like the one on twitter.

    Perhaps the only place with a bigger attendance problem than the panthers is this post.

Trackbacks

  1. […] • Panthers attendance is always in flux. In part it is related to marketing, but the major impact comes from the product on the ice. How will Florida increase attendance this year? [Panther Parkway] […]

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