Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Open Letter to Gary Bettman

Commissioner Bettman,

Thank you for your efforts thus far to bring NHL hockey back to
Atlanta and to keep it here. I know you have a lot of pressure from
north of the border to relocate our team to a snowier climate, and Iam writing to ask you on behalf of all of us who love hockey here to help us keep our team.

Obviously attendance has been an issue over the past ten years, but weproved in the only year that we made the playoffs that this city will support a winning team. As much as I admire Don Waddell personally, I do have to admit that the team has been poorly managed since its inception with awful marketing and bad results on the ice.

With a population of over 5 million in our metro area, Atlanta is more than 7 TIMES THE SIZE of the largest Canadian city in line to receive an NHL team. If every person in the Quebec City metropolitan area bought a single ticket to a single game each season, they would not have 41 sellouts in an 18,000 seat arena. On the other hand, if only 14% of Atlanta's population each bought one ticket to one game each
season, we would sell out every game in that same arena.

Hockey needs a chance to catch on in Atlanta, and it will take winning
to gain the foothold that it needs. When we ice a winning team or
several years in a row, hockey will explode here. Winnipeg, Hamilton,
and Quebec City have a maximum potential of 700,000 fans buying tickets, merchandise, and watching on tv. Atlanta has 5,200,000.

It doesn't make long term business sense to abandon 5 million
potential fans for seven hundred thousand fans who are already buying
merchandise and contributing to the tv audience of the other NHL
franchises. If the NHL leaves Atlanta, ratings for NHL hockey among
these 5 million people will bottom out and never grow. If NHL returns
to Quebec City or Winnipeg, the same people who are watching hockey
right now will continue watching it.

I don't want to deprive people who love hockey. Please look into
either expanding to Winnipeg and Quebec City or relocating a team with
an over saturated market like the New York area.

Thank you for your time and again thank you for your efforts on our behalf.


Anonymous said...

Dear blogger,

The NHL recently signed a ten year television contract with NBC. Obviously Gary Bettman is always looking to expand his product, and you are right, they would not gain any new fans by relocating a team to Canada. However, with guaranteed television dollars locked up, this leaves the remaining potential team profit from gate driven revenues...teams must be primarily concerned with selling tickets. Simple as that. Atlanta would not be in this problem if the fans simply bought tickets. It is unreasonable for a fan base to only support their team when they make the playoffs. (Falcons and Braves will sell-out regardless, Hawks to an extent)
If you remember correctly, the Thrashers were in a playoff position for a large portion of this season, and still the attendance was trash.
Yes, Atlanta has a far greater population than Quebec City, but you judge the viability of a market based on number of HOCKEY FANS in the area, not total people.

Razor Catch Prey said...

Dear A Non E Moose,

A business entity such as the NHL does not sign a 10 year contract and expect it to be honored with no effort to sustain high numbers. That kind of behavior is reserved for European hockey players such as Alexi Yashin and Jaromir Jagr.

Contracts may be voided by one party when the other party makes moves which reduce the profitability of the agreement. Moving from the 8th largest US tv market to a small town in the middle of rural Canada would be such a move.

For short term returns on ticket revenue you are absolutely right that the NHL must look at the number of hockey fans in an area rather than overall population. However, for long term profitability, the league must look at total potential fans in an area. In that, Atlanta dwarfs every market in Canada.

The Thrashers' attendance has been higher than that in Chicago and Boston in certain years. Was there any talk of moving those franchises when Atlanta was outdrawing them? Atlanta was in playoff position for the first half of this past season but fell apart beginning in late December/early January. College and professional football dominate the conversation in the South from September through January. By the time attention turned toward the Thrashers, their season was in ruins.

Sustained winning over several seasons, including playoff berths are what is needed to grow the sport here. Atlanta has one of the fastest growing youth hockey networks in North America, meaning that the number of young fans is growing and a foundation is being laid for a larger fan base in the future.

How many people in Winnipeg will be introduced to the game of hockey by an NHL team moving there? How many would never have laced up skates but for an NHL team being there?

I have had enough of the argument that Winnipeg "deserves" OUR team because they are Canadian and therefore "we like hockey more than you."

Anonymous said...

I've lived in Winnipeg and Atlanta. I counted five hockey rinks in atlanta when I lived there; MIC, Phillips, Kennesaw, The cooler and the practice facility (forgot its name). There are more rinks in a 10 km circle in Winnipeg.

You've had your time to convert a fanbase, it hasn't happened. Atlanta is a fairweather sports league, always will be, since it's a transient city. Your TV ratings prove it, and so does your attendance. It already failed there once and has failed again.

Anonymous said...

It's pointless to talk about straight-up attendance in Atlanta versus Chicago and Boston unless you bring ticket prices into it. Chicago and Boston have had ticket prices above the league average throughout the last 15 years. Atlanta has set their prices below the league average for the entire existence of the franchise save for the first few years.

That Canadians like hockey is the wrong argument to make for more teams in Canada. The right argument is that more Canadians are willing to pay higher prices for NHL hockey tickets.

Even small-market Canadian teams like Ottawa and Edmonton are in the top half of the league in terms of attendance and in the top half in terms of average ticket price. Factor in increased merchandise sales and more lucrative local broadcasting contracts and you have profits that cities like Atlanta and Phoenix just aren't going to see anytime soon.

Fred Coupon said...

Atlanta sports teams across the board struggle, it just doesn't seem like the market gravitates to professional teams. By the end of the Braves division-title run their home playoff became a punchline. Fair or not, there is a perception of apathy there. It probably doesn't help that huge population Atlanta boasts is filled with transients who bring their own allegiances.

Puck said...

A good plea for help, but sadly misguided, partly for the reasons mentioned by other commenters, that being the AMOUNT of revenue each fan brings in. Hell, I'm from Vancouver. We have the most expensive "cheap" tickets in the league: $65 before tax for the lowest-tier seats. And the Canucks have sold out, what, 280 games in a row now? In the playoffs it's easily double that, and increases as the postseason goes on. I went to Game 1 against Nashville and I paid $150, face value, for a single seat. The fact of the matter is that there are tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in the metro Vancouver area that would gladly pay their first born child to see the Canucks. It's simply what we live for.

I am not necessarily claiming that Winnipeg can support a team, but given that you compared Winnipeg's "purchasing power" of a single game per season with that of Atlanta's...I would be willing to bet that not only would the number of people in Winnipeg eager to attend every single home game be extremely high, but I would also bet that the vast majority of Atlantans would have no interest in attending any Hawks games. Ever. You talk of population disparities with the assumption that everyone eventually turns into a hockey fan; if every one of those 5.2 million people was a Hawks fan, that'd be great, but let's not kid ourselves. That's just not what happens.

And it brings to mind an important question: if you consider the entirety of the metro Atlanta population (5.2 million) to be a "potential fanbase" can you insist Bettman relocate a "oversaturated New York market"? Why, that's 19 million people! Surely they can handle two teams! That's a complete contradiction right there, and you should address your hypocrisy.

I feel bad for you and other fans that don't want to see their team go. I really do. I'm not mocking or making fun of you. But your pleas of "just give us a little more time" sound no different than those of someone from Phoenix: an unfortunate fan who is just a tiny pebble in a river of absolute apathy.

Face it. Atlantans don't care about your team enough to keep it financially viable and history suggests that it's not going to change anytime soon. I would let go if I were you.

Kosecki said...

"On the other hand, if only 14% of Atlanta's population each bought one ticket to one game each
season, we would sell out every game in that same arena."

Yeah... but you don't.

Razor Catch Prey said...


Neither did you.

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