SBD/January 18, 2013/NHL Season Preview

NHL Franchise Notes: Wild Credit New Players For Keeping Fans' Interest In Team

In N.Y., Pat Borzi notes Wild officials hoped the offseason signings of LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter would "limit resentment among fans" following the lockout, and they "may have been right." The Wild distributed 13,096 tickets for a scrimmage Wednesday night, and COO Matt Majka estimated that attendance was "a little more than half of the building’s 18,064 capacity -- less than expected, but comparable to the crowd that watched" a Sabres intrasquad scrimmage Monday at the First Niagara Center. Majka said that the club "sold 100 more season tickets once the lockout lifted, and the club was nearing its 16,500 maximum on season sales for the first time in more than three years." Majka said that a half-off sale at the three team stores Wednesday "triggered a tenfold increase in jersey sales over a typical game day." Without Parise and Suter, Majka said, “It would have been a real struggle. I’m pretty convinced we would have gone backwards again with the season ticket base and interest in general. We needed to make something happen" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18).

MAKING UP TO MOTOWN
: In Detroit, Drew Sharp noted Compuware Arena for a Red Wings exhibition Tuesday was "packed ... with fans lined up outside for a couple of hours before the doors opened." FS Detroit carried the game and drew a 1.7 rating, a "pretty strong number for an unconventional exhibition." Red Wings GM Ken Holland said of the lockout, "The fans were the biggest losers. We know that. And we know that we're going to have to make it up to them, day-to-day-to-day. But I thought (the positive fan reaction to the scrimmage) was a good start." Holland confirmed that the Red Wings "will host" the '14 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on New Year's Day. However, he said that the Red Wings are "looking at tweaking the schedule of events prior to the game to enhance the fan experience" (FREEP.com, 1/16).

PLAY PENS: In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi reported more than 18,000 fans "packed Consol Energy Center on Wednesday" for the Penguins' preseason scrimmage. Penguins President David Morehouse said, "Our fans just announced en masse that Pittsburgh is also a hockey town." Rossi noted for the first "game" in Pittsburgh since April 20, Morehouse "ordered the arena's luxury suites be opened to accommodate fans who otherwise would have been turned away." Admission and parking "was free" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/17).

LIGHTING THE LAMP: When the Rangers play the Penguins in their season opener Sunday night, they will play under new lighting and between new glass and dasherboards at MSG. The new High Intensity Discharge lighting, manufactured by Musco, is expected to improve viewing in the stands and on HD broadcasts. The new glass and dasherboards, manufactured by Athletica Sport Systems, include fewer seems, improving visibility for the fans. Player safety features have also been added, including padding on the top edge of the boards and flexible acrylic supports behind the nets. The upgrades are part of the second phase of MSG's three-year transformation, which will be completed this summer (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).

THE HUNT IS ON: The Coyotes announced the launch of their new '13 season marketing campaign, "Join the Hunt," which was developed by Anderson Advertising & PR, Scottsdale. The effort began earlier this week with radio and TV spots, which highlight the team's recent success despite turmoil on and off the ice. It will continue to roll out with digital and outdoor activations, as well as new versions of the TV and radio spots throughout the season (Coyotes).

AROUND THE LEAGUE: With many teams offering special promos for fans at the outset of the season, ESPN.com's Kristi Dosh gave a "team-by-team rundown of discounts being offered on tickets, consessions and merchandise for each team's home opener" (ESPN.com, 1/16).
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