It wasn’t very long ago the Predators were supposedly the prime example of why the NHL shouldn’t be in non-traditional hockey markets. Media folks (mostly those north of the border) saw a team with a winning record, poor attendance and pounced. Every hockey “expert” it seemed was calling into question Nashville’s viability as a hockey market.
Fast forward a few years and the story takes quite a different turn. For a few seasons now the Predators have quietly turned a profit and are getting strong attendance figures. For example, just two seasons ago Nashville’s average attendance was 14,979. This year they are averaging 16,587.
Now I know what you’re thinking, these attendance numbers are complete BS. I know, I was thinking the same thing. Having worked for several professional sports teams, I know how teams usually cheat their attendance figures.
Most struggling teams will only announce tickets distributed, which could mean they donated a couple hundred seats here and there to charities (with zero chance they’ll actually be filled). Some teams include all of the people “working the game” in their attendance figures including media members, team staff, arena workers, etc. Finally, some teams will just discount or comp hundreds of tickets just to get asses in the seats. Few teams actually report how many people paid for their seat and actually sat in it.
Anyway, so upon reading these figures, it’s fair to be skeptical. However, last season I read a fantastic article at www.ontheforecheck.com, which is a Nashville Predators blog run by Dirk Hoag. It appeared Dirk obtained exactly the data I was looking for – average paid attendance figures – from the Metro Sports Authority. As he reported, the Predators average paid attendance in 08-09 through the first 9 home games was 12,918. In 09-10 that figure rose to 13,131. Last season that number was up to 15,657. Pretty impressive growth if you ask me.
So what does all of this have to do with the trade deadline?
The Predators are legitimately growing their fanbase thanks to continued competitive play, savvy grass-roots marketing efforts, & a stable ownership. If you are the GM of a team on the rise, why on earth would you be deadline sellers? Nothing would undermine their new-found local support like trading Shea Weber or Ryan Suter on the heels of a deep playoff run.
If the Predators ownership is smart (and I believe they are), they should open up some cash to prove to the rest of the country that they belong in the national chatter about Western Conference contenders. Forget trading their franchise cornerstones, GM David Poile should be acquiring players from the very cities that try to pass his team off as one with poachable assets.
Sorry hockey fans, Weber & Suter aren’t going anywhere.