I am military. And being so, I tend to get to the heart of the matter. I zero in on the mission and attack it with vigor. So if I was working for an NHL team, I would do a few things some might call cold-hearted or calculated. I prefer to call it mission-focused.
My mission, in running a team, would be to build a Stanley Cup winning franchise with a fan base that cannot buy enough tickets to see the team in action.
My intent would be to focus on building the kind of fans that cannot help but come to the game even when the team is not blowing out the opposition. And I would build this team through the local population base of children.
The ‘Evil’ Plan
Let’s say it how it really is. While most of us would like to say our kids go where we take them, more often in pure statistical terms, families are taken where their children’s activities go. So bring the children to the rink, and you have a whole family in the seats. That’s 3.14 family members in the U.S. and about three in Canada. In effect, if the child comes to the game, you sell 2-3 tickets.
So the Evil Plan – we’ll call it the ‘EP’ – is to integrate children into the operation as much as is possible. Here is my coup de grace example:
Kidterns. I would invite the local school board Presidents to the Arena for lunch and sit down to work out the EP. It would be the following:
1. Take essays and/or video tapes from students age 12-16.
2. Find the best essays/videos and choose the right children to represent the team
3. Work out class credit with the school boards for the children to miss a week of school to participate in Kidtern camp with no grade repercussions in exchange for class/school reports on their experience (yes, to excite even MORE kids about hockey)
4. Conduct Kidtern camp one week when the team is on the road but within a couple weeks of the Christmas/Boxing Day Holidays
5. Have three children work with trainers on Hockey equipment; three children work ticket sales; two children work game-time, on-the-jumbotron promotions; 10 children work pre-game promotions/customer assistance; five children work with major staff assistants; and one each boy and girl with the team’s media for game-time presentations – the goal is to spread the 25 children around as many school districts as possible simultaneously
6. Bring them to Kidtern Camp and then have them work for a week with the team over the holidays – the focus would be all for the kids to go all out for one home game (the kids also get a sit-down lunch with the team after a morning skate somewhere in there so their report can say ‘…I lunched with Ovechkin….’)
7. Sell the parents up to six each 50% off tickets to come and see their children at work with the team on the prime home game night – ensure to have in-arena cameras show either live, or run recorded video clips of the kids during game breaks/in-between periods
So you would have three kids helping to prepare equipment and set up the room before the game and in the runway to assist the trainers as the game is ongoing. (Among ‘normal’ duties, have them tape one of the rookie’s sticks.)
Three children would work right alongside the agents on the phones after training and in the ticket office for game time. (Have them call and melt the big corporations to sell corporate boxes though the sheer power of a child’s enthusiasm.)
Two children would work as assistants with the jumbotron promotion/contest crew – if they are particularly able, they might own the mic to run one contest. (Smiles fill the building and at least two sets of parents holler ‘…That’s MY kid!..”.)
Ten youngsters would assist with promotional hand outs and giveaways throughout the game. (Have them talk people into parting with their money on a great idea at the fan store or concession stand.)
Five sharp kiddos would be assistants to the managements’ personal assistants to learn how that critical mission is conducted.
And the most gregarious young man and woman would be trained to be a broadcast/interview team. It’s not that they can take Heidi Androl’s place. It’s that they have a unique interpretation at that young age we all have forgotten to express and can’t help but laugh at when kids ‘say the darndest things.’ They get one jumbotron interview and, if it can be done, one short segment on air. (Every kid wants in the Kidtern program now…)
At the very end, give them all team shirts, signed pucks and hats, and special coupons for discounted tickets for the rest of the season as long as tickets are available. You know, to increase the opportunity to come out to games.
And send a letter to the very best of the Kidterns to return for one, early-round Playoff game encore as a special recognition of a job well done. Maintain a listing of Kidtern ‘graduates’ for consideration as they become young adults and may want to apply for a position with the team.
Some Other Ideas To Increase The Butt-To-Seat Ratio
I have three more.
Once more with the children… For the top 40 kiddos not chosen for the Kidtern program, at 10 kids per special day, they join the Kidterns for a skate with the team. So four times during the year, the team donates an hour of ice time and brings the 25 Kidterns and 10 runners-up onto the ice with the players. All the while, proud/jealous parents are staring through the glass at their lucky progeny. (Pass them coupons for special discount rates on tickets as they watch.)
The first in-game special I call ‘How Suite It Is.’ For 10 games during the season, after the first period, any unsold/unoccupied suites become the privilege of some lower-bowl season ticket holders. Go to the appropriate sections a few minutes before the end of the 1st Period and round up the lucky ticket holders. And make a big deal of it as you lead them away to their new, plush seats.
Then there is ‘Come On Down.’ Tickets in the lower bowl are freakin’ expensive. Some more than others. So for the same 10 games as ‘How Suite It Is,’ during the 3rd Period, random, upper bowl rows/sections are taken down to fill in unoccupied, lower bowl seats. The wealth is shared in an awesome way all upper deck fans have thought and wished for as they looked down and cursed the un-attending below them.
So the EP is simple. Get the paying parents to the rink through their children just like the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Expose lots of kids to something special – some in person and others vicariously as they listen to the school report from the lucky, chosen. And share the wealth.
Fill the seats. By a team, staff and support. Build a sense of community. And win The Cup.
What would YOU do if you were the boss?