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Damage control: Who was best?
Published June 20, 2005
Whether it was bringing the first-ever indoor pro tennis tournament to South Florida to fill lost hockey dates, or hosting a campaign appearance by President George W. Bush just 36 hours after the Panthers' scheduled home opener at the Office Depot Center, the club used its control of the arena to diversify its business and find creative ways to stay connected with fans.
All of which is why Street & Smith¹s SportsBusiness Journal is naming the Florida Panthers as the first, and hopefully only, "Stanley Cup Champion of Business," presented for 2005 in lieu of any actual Stanley Cup presentation on the ice.
The Phoenix Coyotes were the other Stanley Cup finalist in our fantasy bracket, with the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins making it to the Conference Finals. Those franchises stood out among a large group of clubs that tried to make the best use of the lockout downtime. While the circumstances were less than ideal, the lockout was a chance for many clubs to trim fat, be creative and fortify their bond with fans through a variety of outreach methods. Nearly every NHL team engaged in some sort of activity unique to its market.
The organization spent the canceled season devoted to projects that will last well into the future, such as launching an entertainment magazine and creating the Sinatra Theatre, an end configuration of the arena that can be used for intimate shows and concerts.
By pumping more events into the Office Depot Center and selling against those assets, the Panthers kept more than 75 percent of their sponsorship dollars on the books, Yormark said, instead of simply pushing that revenue into another year as most clubs did. Preparing for a potential lockout as early as last June, the Panthers even added a handful of new sponsors during the downtime, such as Harley-Davidson, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Metro PCS.
Even without offering anything more than the NHL-mandated 2 percent interest, the club managed to hold on to 87.5 percent of money from season-ticket holders.
The Panthers were far from alone in their approach to the season that wasn’t. Nearly every NHL team held skating parties, sent their coaches to hockey clinics and offered season-ticket holders incentives to keep their money on account. Some even opened up their locker rooms for sponsor dinners or, in the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a movie night for kids.
For most clubs, the lockout spurred initiatives that will continue once play resumes.
“It’s really asked us to focus on reaching out to our community,” said Boston Bruins executive vice president Charlie Jacobs. “We’ve begun the process, and I don’t think it ends with the lockout. We’ll recast our brand in this market.”
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King took the time to personally sign every refund check written to season-ticket holders.
New York Islanders general manager Mike Milbury called each of the team’s season-ticket holders, just to let them vent and shoot the breeze.
If there’s a lasting lesson, it’s that seemingly little things like town-hall-style meetings with general managers or open skating sessions are enormously valuable means of staying connected with ticket-buying consumers. It won’t be easy to continue all of these efforts during a real season, but then again, nothing was easy during the lockout because most clubs laid off a significant number of employees.
Not playing for a year also gave clubs the chance, or an excuse, to be radical. The Phoenix Coyotes offered to double the number of tickets for every season-ticket holder, for free, if they left their money on account with the team. If a family had a pair of tickets before, next season they’ll have four, at no additional charge. Team President Doug Moss said 90 percent of season-ticket holders took the Coyotes up on the offer, though he would not disclose how many season-ticket holders the club has.
For a club that’s struggled to fill its arena as the Coyotes have, the lockout was a perfect opportunity to do something that will bring more bodies through the door next season while also appearing grateful to fans, as opposed to desperate for them.
“Let’s face it, I have a relatively small season-ticket base compared to other teams,” Moss said. “I have the inventory, so why not thank the people who’ve supported us the most?”
There were a few teams — really only a few — that pretty much shut down during the lockout. The Washington Capitals, who are at or near the bottom of the NHL team-revenue ladder, did little in the way of community relations or marketing. The New Jersey Devils, who are always strong on the ice but struggle to sell out their arena, also stood out for their inactivity.
But for every club that didn’t make the lockout a rallying point to reach out to fans, there were five that did.
Yormark said the lockout actually presented an opportunity for the Panthers, who struggled economically in recent years, to prove that they were a vibrant organization moving in the right direction.
“Now the credibility and viability of the franchise isn’t an issue,” he said. “If we could survive the work stoppage, we can survive anything.”
STANLEY CUP OF BUSINESS CHAMPION
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Numerous concerts, including
Neil Diamond, the Y100.7 FM Summer Splash featuring Gwen Stefani, and Luciano
Pavarotti; the Mercedes-Benz Classic indoor tennis tournament and the Orange
Bowl Basketball Classic, among other events.
• Community outreach: Distributed more than $100,000 to local charities, had several youth hockey initiatives, an adult hockey fantasy camp, a holiday party and free skate, among other efforts.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: The “Lock In During Lockout” campaign retained 87.5 percent of season-ticket holders with incentives and benefits before Jan. 1 and more than 90 percent by the time the season was canceled; guaranteed price freeze for the next two seasons for those who renewed; held two free concerts, a showing of the movie “Miracle” and a Halloween event for season-ticket holders’ children to go suite-to-suite trick-or-treating.
• Other: The Panthers signed several new sponsors and sold out their suite inventory despite the lockout. The team also will open the Sinatra Theatre in October, formed its own catering company, installed new LED video boards, added in-arena amenities such as the Absolut On-Ice Bar and Cruzan Rum Shack, began producing Roving Signage Systems for other venues and generated revenue by offering its IT department for support of other businesses. The Panthers produced two new magazines: “Live on Stage,” promoting music at the Office Depot Center, and “Unrestricted,” a Florida sports magazine. The franchise had 10 lockout-related layoffs.
STANLEY CUP OF BUSINESS RUNNER-UP
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: The Coyotes said that more
than half the scheduled NHL dates at Glendale Arena were filled with some sort
of event, either a ticketed or non-ticketed event. Those include concerts such
as Bette Midler, Rod Stewart, Prince, Kenny Chesney and Cher; family shows such
as the circus; and sporting events such as Arizona Sting lacrosse games, boxing,
rodeos and roller derby.
• Community outreach: The Coyotes staged an event called “99 Hours of Hockey” for which they invited youth hockey teams, adult hockey teams, season-ticket holders, suite holders, handicap “sled” hockey teams, police and fire department teams, and NHL alumni to play at Glendale Arena for free for 99 hours. The weeklong event culminated with a game between NHL alumni and an all-star police and fire team. The club held a town-hall meeting with fans, attended by general partner Wayne Gretzky, team owner Steve Ellman, general manager Mike Barnett and President Doug Moss. The Coyotes also sponsored a local junior hockey team.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: By leaving a 50 percent deposit on account toward the 2005-06 season, Coyotes season-ticket holders received double their number of paid seats for the entire season. So, if they had two seats and they pay the balance in full once the lockout ends, they will receive four season tickets. Fans also will have been paid 5 percent interest on the balance on their accounts.
• Other: The Coyotes reduced their staff by about 60, with approximately one-third of those coming through layoffs and the rest through attrition. In recent weeks, the club has started rehiring and adding employees, but staffing remains nowhere near pre-lockout levels.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: TD Banknorth Garden self-promoted a Motley Crue concert, something a Bruins executive said the building (which is owned by the same parent company) would not have done if there had been no lockout. The venue also hosted an expanded slate of college hockey games.
• Community outreach: The “Black and Gold Give Back” program sent nearly 100 former or current Bruins and TD Banknorth Garden employees into the community as volunteers for local charities, wearing Bruins jerseys. Employees whose hours were affected by the lockout received hourly compensation from the team for their donated hours. The Boston Bruins Foundation raised money for charity through several events, including a “Hockey 101 for Everyone” class and a wine-tasting event. The team was involved in several youth hockey clinics and public appearances.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Paid 7.7 percent interest on mandatory 50 percent deposits. After May 1, the Bruins began paying 15 percent interest on money left on account, under condition that money be used only for future ticket purchases. That all helped retain 85 percent of season-ticket holders from 2003-04, actually higher than figures from previous years. The team had open skates for season-ticket holders at TD Banknorth Garden and free trips to see the Bruins’ minor league affiliate play in Providence, R.I. The club also had a lottery for season-ticket holders to attend the hall of fame induction party for Bruins legend Ray Bourque, and the coach, general manager and president met repeatedly with the “Season Ticket Holder” advisory board.
• Other: The Bruins had no layoffs but went to a three-day workweek during the lockout.
St. Louis Blues
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: The Savvis Center previously had signed an agreement to hold MISL St. Louis Steamers games in part because of the possibility of a hockey lockout, which resulted in 20 indoor soccer games this past season, the team’s first in the arena. The other replacement event was a welterweight title fight between hometown star Cory Spinks and Zab Judah, which set a boxing attendance record for an indoor arena of more than 22,000.
• Community outreach: The team held several new alumni hockey games for charity and organized “Cool Bars” events at local sports bars in conjunction with a series of “Classic Blues Games” that were televised on Fox Sports Net Midwest. The franchise maintained numerous charitable efforts and its youth and amateur hockey programs.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Offered 4 percent annual interest on the balance of a ticket-holder’s account, or 10 percent accrued annual interest on the balance to be paid in “Blues Bucks” for when play resumes.
• Other: The Blues have held roundtable discussions with fans during the lockout, and the team responded individually to hundreds of e-mails concerning the lockout. The Blues did lay off 25 employees, though, including 12 after the season was canceled.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: The Flames, who control Pengrowth Saddledome, brought in several events to fill dark days in the arena, including “Stars on Ice” and concerts. The Western Hockey League Calgary Hitmen, a major junior team owned by the Flames, had the highest attendance average of any hockey team in North America, at more than 11,000 per game, up 40 percent from a year ago.
• Community outreach: The Flames continued all existing programs, making a seven-figure investment in community relations despite the lack of revenue due to the lockout. A club policy was instituted to at least attempt to fulfill all requests for appearances by team executives and coaches. Team President Ken King made more than 100 appearances. The “Reading. Give it a Shot” literacy program that had featured players continued with coaches. The team mascot, Harvey the Hound, also doubled his work load with local appearances.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: The team offered various discounts and privileges to season-ticket holders, including discounts on the Hitmen and other events. Season-ticket holders were offered prime-plus-one interest rates, which netted to about 6 percent. A total of 83 percent of season-ticket holders kept some money on account, split about evenly between those who elected to leave a 10 percent deposit with the club and those who paid the entire amount. The team offered season-ticket holders extended interest for leaving money on account with the club after the season was canceled.
• Other: King personally signed all refund checks and included a handwritten note with each. All employees went to a three-day workweek at 60 percent salary when the lockout began; 10 were laid off and the rest returned to full-time status after the season was canceled.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Two replacement events were held at the RBC Center: a concert and a WWE wrestling program.
• Community outreach: In-school street-hockey clinics with 17 area middle and high schools; staff participated in a Build-A-Bear event with the Carolina Hurricanes Booster Club, with the bears donated to charity; maintained numerous charity programs; held a skating event at the RBC Center for a local Boys & Girls Club; and expanded the team’s literacy program among local grade schools.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: The team offered six options for season-ticket holders to maintain their accounts, including earning interest on money kept with the club and future discounts; two season-ticket-holder skating nights; a trip to an American Hockey League game between the Lowell (Mass.) Lock Monsters and Norfolk (Va.) Admirals in December (Lowell is Carolina’s AHL affiliate); a town-hall meeting with Canes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman; and a Halloween haunted house at the RBC Center.
• Other: The Hurricanes held a Corporate Sponsor Summit, which brought sponsors together to share ideas, create exposure and cross-promotional opportunities, and offer feedback to the team. The Hurricanes did not attribute any staff cuts to the lockout.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Numerous concerts and sporting events were held at the Xcel Energy Center during the lost NHL months, including Toby Keith, the Boston Pops, Yanni and John Mellencamp. The arena also hosted several high school events and a game featuring the Houston Aeros (the Wild’s AHL affiliate) vs. the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Griffins.
• Community outreach: Held the Wild Fan Fair open house, numerous youth hockey clinics, open skates for youth hockey groups and visits to hospitals from coaches and staff.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: For money left on account, the team offered 7 percent interest, an invitation to the team reception before next season, monthly $50 Xcel Energy Center gift cards and 10 free ticket vouchers to Minnesota Swarm lacrosse games; also offered a lunch with club President Doug Risebrough, fantasy hockey camps, a lockout survival kit and open skates.
• Other: The Wild had 20 lockout-related layoffs, with some employees going to three- and four-day workweeks and others working halftime.
New York Rangers
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Several additional performances of the circus, an additional R. Kelly/Jay-Z concert, a November “night of the heavyweights” boxing card and the Jordan Classic high school basketball tournament, among others.
• Community outreach: The Rangers maintained usual community efforts, which include raising money for the Ronald McDonald House, the team’s annual toy drive, the Junior Rangers Youth Hockey program, an after-school program, golf and bowling outings for charity, and an Ice Hockey in Harlem event.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Several fan forums were held with franchise officials, a “Future Blue” event (which was televised on MSG Network) in which coach Tom Renney and others discussed the team’s future strategies, skating sessions at Madison Square Garden, a hockey clinic for the children of season-ticket holders, and a new Rangers Summer Fan Fest, among other events. Season-ticket holders were offered two free tickets to the April 30 James Toney-John Ruiz heavyweight championship fight at the Garden, as well as discounts to Hartford (Conn.) Wolf Pack games. The team also created a Season Subscriber Advisory Board to discuss benefits and ideas for season-ticket holders.
• Other: The Rangers created an NHL lockout survival kit, called “Blue Kits,” to help fans survive the lost hockey season. The team had no lockout-related layoffs.
FIRST-ROUND PLAYOFF TEAMS
Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Two NLL Storm games; two shoots of NBC’s “The West Wing”; a tsunami relief concert featuring No Doubt; an AHL Cincinnati Mighty Ducks game; and an RV sale in the parking lot.
• Community outreach: The usual community efforts were maintained, including a pediatric brain tumor initiative, an elementary school reading program, several events around the Mighty Ducks Care program and youth hockey clinics. The team held a winter wonderland party at the Arrowhead Pond, with 18 tons of snow trucked in.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Offered 5 percent interest for either a refund or leaving money on account; held 15 General Manager Breakfasts, a suite-holder golf tournament, a club-seat-holder golf clinic and two skate parties, among other events.
• Other: The team held three Cincinnati Mighty Ducks games in all (one of which directly replaced a lockout game), with incentives to season-ticket holders who purchased a three-game package for the minor league games. Anaheim had seven lockout-related layoffs.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Several private corporate events; have booked shows for the Rolling Stones and Elton John.
• Community outreach: The Thrashers maintained numerous charitable and educational efforts, including working with the Summer Rehab Games, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the American Heart Association, Special Olympics, Read Across America and several local children’s hospitals. The organization raised $69,000 with its annual charity golf tournament.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Offered numerous monthly discounts and incentives, such as two complimentary Atlanta Hawks tickets each month, two-for-one Peach Bowl tickets, tickets to the AFL Georgia Force, free passes to Brunswick Bowling, the AutoShow in Motion at Turner Field, Champions on Ice and numerous other value-added incentives.
• Other: The Thrashers had no layoffs.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Four games featuring the Sabres’ AHL affiliate, the Rochester (N.Y.) Americans, two Legends of Hockey vs. Sabres alumni games and the inaugural Scotty Bowman Showcase consisting of two high school all-star hockey games, among other events.
• Community outreach: The team’s mascot, Sabretooth, tripled its number of appearances, with a heavy emphasis on schools and charitable organizations. A Hockey Legends Dinner was held in conjunction with an alumni game to raise money for Buffalo’s Women and Children’s Hospital, and HSBC Arena was the site of skating parties around Halloween and Christmas.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: The Sabres reduced season-ticket prices by 12 to 28 percent for 2004-05, with the average season-ticket price of roughly $35 per game being the lowest in the NHL. Each season ticket required only a $50 deposit that was refundable with 2 percent interest during the lockout.
• Other: The Sabres were at the forefront of experimenting with two potential changes to the NHL product, installing light blue ice at HSBC Arena for two AHL games to see if the color shows up better on television, and testing larger nets to see if they would allow increased scoring. The Sabres had 25 lockout-related layoffs.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Seven replacement events included a third Harlem Globetrotters date, two “Get Motivated” seminars with keynote speaker Peter Lowe that each attracted sellout crowds of 15,000, and two Royal Lipizzaner Stallions performances in one day.
• Community outreach: The team held several town-hall meetings and maintained its community efforts, which included the Dallas Stars Foundation awarding grants for $85,000, a reading program that visited more than 27,000 kids, and team coaches participating in clinics and youth hockey league practices.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Offered three options: a full refund and the league-mandated 2 percent interest; 6 percent interest for money left on account; or a 15-game Texas Rangers ticket package (opponents included the Yankees and Red Sox) for those who deferred their money to 2005-06. The Stars also held early renewal for 2004-05 tickets that included a 5 percent discount on tickets with a guarantee that seat prices would not rise in 2005-06. In addition, fans were told in May that deposits to keep their seats for 2005-06 would not be asked for until August, with a voucher for four Rangers tickets included in the letter.
• Other: The Stars had 25 lockout-related layoffs and, in a unique move, upper management took pay cuts of 20 percent to 25 percent.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Suite holders were invited to play in “corporate” hockey games, playing alongside Canadiens legends.
• Community outreach: The club developed new mascots for its fan club, comic book-like characters called “The Fantastics” in lieu of actual player images. The Canadiens also expanded their “LRF” (Learn, Respect and Fun) grassroots program into a traveling tour around Quebec, something they had planned to do whether there was a lockout or not.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Hall of famer Jean Beliveau, general manager Bob Gainey and team President Pierre Boivin met repeatedly with season-ticket holders in discussion groups of 50 to 100. Season-ticket holders also were offered 5 percent interest for keeping their money on account, and the club said that more than 95 percent chose to do so.
• Other: The team had an undisclosed number of lockout-related layoffs.
New York Islanders
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: SMG operates Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and booked an Indian “Bollywood” type event with singers, actors and comedians, the USA Gymnastics American Cup championships, a reggae concert; and two AHL Bridgeport (Conn.) Sound Tigers games.
• Community outreach: An alumni three-on-three tournament at which the Stanley Cup was present, and the team “utilized our coach, GM and alumni where appropriate.”
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Season-ticket holders were comped for the two Bridgeport games at the Coliseum. General manager Mike Milbury personally called every season-ticket holder. The Islanders utilized sponsors for special events, such as Best Buy closing its doors on a Sunday night in December for a season-ticket-holder shopping evening in which Milbury, coach Steve Stirling, the team’s mascot and the Ice Girls were present and store discounts were offered.
• Other: The team had no layoffs.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: SMG operates Mellon Arena.
• Community outreach: Several charitable efforts were conducted, including raising money for Pennsylvania flood victims, working with Toys for Tots and a coat drive. The Penguins held a unique “Hungry for Hockey?” photo contest on their Web site, sponsored a 40-plus-team high school hockey tournament and had several youth hockey efforts.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Offered 5 percent interest and “Penguins Cash” (10 percent of the amount on deposit) to those who left money on account. The team also informed fans of local minor league, college and high school hockey through its “Hungry for Hockey?” packages, had an open skate at Mellon Arena, gave out comp tickets to ECHL Wheeling (W.Va.) Nailers games and offered a bus trip to an AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pa.) Penguins game.
• Other: The Penguins teamed with the University of Pittsburgh to create “Penguins University,” which offered seminars on leadership and other topics. Pittsburgh had no lockout-related layoffs, but the team did go to a four-day workweek after Sept. 15.
Tampa Bay Lightning
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Events at the St. Pete Times Forum included a concert by Clint Black, three additional Disney on Ice shows and a WTA tournament, among others.
• Community outreach: Instituted the Pink Hat Project, in which the team is selling hats to benefit breast cancer research. The Lightning has sold 5,000 hats to date, raising $50,000. Tampa Bay maintained its usual community efforts, which included the team’s annual leukemia run, the Lightning Foundation benefiting several causes and several youth-focused programs.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: The team donated 2 percent of all Lightning ticket commitments to area charities, held four Stanley Cup viewing parties and offered tickets to several arena events.
• Other: Tampa Bay had no layoffs.
MISSED THE PLAYOFFS
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: A radio station-sponsored concert that featured local bands, and a production of the opera “Carmina Burana.”
• Community outreach: Several local appearances by staff, coaches and the team’s mascot, Tommy Hawk; numerous youth hockey initiatives, including donations, clinics and a coaches clinic for 300 coaches; held a three-day holiday tournament that drew 20 teams from the Midwest; and held a “day of hockey” at the United Center, featuring a game between the Chicago Police and Fire departments, the 18th annual Blackhawk Cup High School Championship Game and a USHL game.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Asked for only 60 percent of the ticket price, with interest and other benefits applied; will maintain a 10 percent decrease in cost from 2003-04. Also held the annual season-ticket-holder party.
• Other: The Blackhawks had a handful of lockout-related layoffs.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: None to speak of.
• Community outreach: Attended community fundraisers and participated in a leaguewide program visiting hospitals.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Offered the league-mandated 2 percent interest for refunds, with an option of 5 percent interest in “Pepsi Center Bucks” that can be used for purchases with the team or at the arena. The club said most season-ticket holders selected the second option.
• Other: The Avalanche had no layoffs.
Columbus Blue Jackets
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Among the events held for the first time or first time between September and April were the circus, the Ohio Hockey Classic college tournament and a game between the Syracuse (N.Y.) Crunch (Columbus’ AHL affiliate) and the Cleveland Barons that drew 13,102.
• Community outreach: Community programs were maintained: The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation awarded $140,000 in grants, an educational program visited 50 elementary schools, youth hockey clinics were conducted, and broadcasters and coaches were booked at roughly 50 speaking engagements. One new program was a Fantasy Hockey Camp for 60 adults.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Offered a monthly refund with 3 percent interest for money on account, or a credit to the account plus 6 percent interest and a Blue Jackets Dividend Certificate worth between $100 and $300 for merchandise or concessions.
• Other: The Blue Jackets had no layoffs.
Detroit Red Wings
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: The ice at Joe Louis Arena was kept down all year, allowing for youth hockey tournaments and rentals to civic and corporate groups. This included the “Fantasy 4 x 4” program, where any group could take on a team of Red Wings alumni and coaches in four-on-four hockey for $1,350. The Red Wings alums were undefeated in 17 games. The funds were used to cover building operating expenses.
• Community outreach: The Red Wings continued to supply their normal annual lot of about 2,500 player autographs to local charities, tapping into a reserve of autographs and retired players. The club also held a Red Wings DVD premiere party in November.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: The club held an open house for season-ticket holders in December, and season-ticket holders received complimentary tickets to a Detroit Tigers game. The Red Wings did not ask season-ticket holders to leave money on account.
• Other: The Red Wings had no layoffs.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: The club has not brought in any specific new events to the Rexall Place, but it welcomed a new AHL club, the Road Runners, who filled 40-plus dates.
• Community outreach: Much of the club’s marketing and community relations activity centered on the Road Runners, who are owned by the Oilers. The club averaged about 8,800 per game in attendance, third in the AHL. The Oilers expanded the geographical scope of clinics and charity appearances by coaches and alumni. In addition, this year marked the debut of the “Fanboni,” a Zamboni refitted with a comfortable seating area that carries up to 10 people, giving rides at games and on city streets.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Season-ticket holders were given prime-plus-one interest rates for keeping their money on account with the club through April 1. At that point, the interest went up to 7 percent. A team official said that fewer than 2 percent of season-ticket holders took all their money back. Season-ticket holders were given the first option to buy season tickets to the Road Runners. About 4,000 Road Runners season tickets were sold to Oilers season-ticket holders.
• Other: The Oilers had a handful of lockout-related layoffs. Edmonton also recently applied to the AHL to suspend operations of the Road Runners, saying in a release: “If the NHL restarts some time this fall as hoped, the Road Runners may represent a significant distraction to Edmonton and area hockey fans.”
Los Angeles Kings
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: The Staples Center was active on more than 20 dates originally scheduled for hockey, including concerts, ice shows, a boxing event and various film shoots. The arena also brought in the AHL-affiliate Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs to play a game.
• Community outreach: The club’s primary layoffs came in its community relations department, so there was limited activity in this area. The Kings’ coaches and broadcasters took part in instructional clinics in the Los Angeles area.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Asked season-ticket holders only for $100 deposits per seat and no additional money; offered free tickets to Monarchs game; produced a special yearbook called “LA Kings A to Z” that featured every player ever to wear a Kings uniform, and sent the book free to all season-ticket holders; offered free tickets to the Feb. 19 Bernard Hopkins-Howard Eastman fight.
• Other: The Kings and parent company Anschutz Entertainment Group had a handful of lockout-related layoffs.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: The Predators do not schedule events for Gaylord Entertainment Center.
• Community outreach: The team maintained its community efforts, which included the Predators Foundation awarding grants of $53,000, more than 500 hours of community service to St. Luke’s Community House by Predators staff and a day with Habitat for Humanity, as well as hosting 12 area high schools for a series of games and an average of two youth hockey clinics a week throughout the lockout.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: All season-ticket holders renewing for 2005-06 will receive an engraved puck on the new Predators Wall of Fame, a customized jersey and interest on money left on account. The team also hosted a town-hall meeting with owner Craig Leipold and created the Season Ticketholder Training Camp in which coaches walked fans through game-day preparation, had a question-and-answer session and then an open skate at the arena.
• Other: The team hosted a “Dinner with the Coaches” event in the locker room with sponsors in December. The Predators had about a dozen layoffs because of the lockout.
New Jersey Devils
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: The Devils do not control Continental Airlines Arena.
• Community outreach: Last summer, a group of Devils alumni visited various chambers of commerce and civic organizations throughout New Jersey.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Offered season-ticket holders extended interest for leaving money on account with the club after the season was canceled (the Devils would not disclose the interest rate); more than 60 percent have left money with the team.
• Other: The Devils had no layoffs.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: No revenue-generating events other than three youth hockey tournaments; also offered ice time to various youth teams.
• Community outreach: The Senators used the down time to focus on two major construction projects: a $20 million four-ice pad arena near the Corel Centre, and Roger’s House, a pediatric care home for up to eight children and at least two families. The Senators staged their annual Hockey Day in the Capital with 1,000 youth players, and the team’s educational programs reached more than 75,000 area students.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Season-ticket holders were offered free public skating and a chance to meet the Senators’ general manager, team president and coach. The club also offered to freeze ticket prices for two years with a 5 percent price rebate for the 2005-06 season to season-ticket holders who left at least 10 percent of their money on account. Those who left the entire amount received 7.5 percent interest.
• Other: The Senators had an unspecified number of layoffs, which including attrition amounted to a reduction of more than 35 employees. The team rehired everyone in May.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Several AHL Philadelphia Phantoms games were held at the Wachovia Center, including the first two games of the season and the playoffs. Moving the opening games allowed for the conversion of the Wachovia Spectrum into the “largest interactive haunted Halloween adventure park.” The team held numerous other events, including concerts by U2 and Kenny Chesney.
• Community outreach: Began a school assembly program that reached 13,000 kids, held several youth hockey initiatives and coaching clinics, and made regular hospital visits, among other charitable efforts.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: The team would not release any season-ticket holder incentives or programs.
• Other: The Flyers had no layoffs.
San Jose Sharks
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: Hosted minor league games for AHL affiliate Cleveland Barons; tickets were free for season-ticket holders and $5 for others.
• Community outreach: Used mascot SJ Sharkie as the face of the franchise during the lockout. Sharkie has been all over Silicon Valley, attending 318 events, from the downtown San Jose Christmas tree lighting to his “main gig,” the “Reading is Cool” literacy program sponsored by the club. General manager Doug Wilson sent out an e-mail questionnaire seeking fan feedback on things like whether the NHL should employ a shoot-out.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Offered 7 percent interest to season-ticket holders after the season was canceled, on condition that the fans leave the money on account for future purchases; sent season-ticket holders a lockout survival kit with items that included a chocolate hockey puck; gave free ice time to season-ticket holders.
• Other: The Sharks had a couple dozen layoffs related to the lockout.
Toronto Maple Leafs
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: The club held two open skates for fans and staged numerous events for corporate partners at the Air Canada Centre, including hockey scrimmages.
• Community outreach: The club held a movie night for children in the Maple Leafs dressing room, complete with popcorn. It staged numerous development clinics and sponsored a “Fitness Challenge.” Team sponsors were invited to a private skating party.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: The Maple Leafs have a long waiting list for season tickets so they did not offer incentives to leave money on account. Instead, all season-ticket holders were asked to pay the full amount for the 2004-05 season and then received interest of 4.75 percent. The team also held a season-ticket-holder hockey tournament.
• Other: The Maple Leafs had no lockout-related layoffs.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: U2 rented General Motors Place for three weeks from February to March to construct, rehearse and prepare for their Vertigo 2005 World Tour. The group also held two concerts and shot a video there. Other events included a nationally televised tsunami relief concert and a day of youth hockey games.
• Community outreach: Focused on grassroots hockey programs, holding youth clinics (including the annual Canucks Female Jamboree), as well as the team’s charitable efforts with Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and the Canucks Family Education Centre. Held the inaugural “Scary Skate” during Halloween and a ceremonial Christmas lighting at Canuck Place.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Refunds of the league-mandated 2 percent for all games processed within 10 business days of the official announcement; a two-year price freeze for season-ticket holders who kept their deposit on account; season-ticket holders received a Canucks DVD, and numerous free skates were offered at GM Place.
• Other: The Canucks did not have any lockout-related layoffs, but about 10 employees did take voluntary buyout packages, and the franchise momentarily went to a four-day workweek when the lockout began.
• Creative ways to fill lost dates: The Capitals do not control the MCI Center.
• Community outreach: The club’s community relations specialist took another job and was not replaced, so the club did not undertake any new initiatives during the lockout.
• Season-ticket holder incentives/programs: Fans who left their money on account received 3 percent interest and an “Ice Your Price” guarantee, promising no price increases for at least two seasons. In April, the team announced that it has reduced season-ticket prices by 11 percent for next season, starting as low as $14 per game. No special events have been held for season-ticket holders yet, but they will be invited to an “ice-breaking” ceremony at the club’s new practice facility this summer, and owner Ted Leonsis plans to hold a meeting with season-ticket holders in the future.
• Other: The Capitals had no layoffs.