Not too many empty seats

Canadian readers: It’s easy for us to get caught up in our domestic “our game” superiority complex. Hockey is a big deal here, we know this. As HOCKEY fans, however – not just strictly NHL – growing the game should be a priority. How often have you found yourself in front of a TV or at a rink taking in a game, thinking “how could you NOT love this sport?” Well, this is a step to ridding yourself of that question for good.

The city of Nashville is getting fairly used to the eyerolls that come with owning a hockey team in the Sun Belt. Why are they there? Why aren’t there more Canadian teams? What about Seattle? Hartford? Even Las Vegas would be a high profile spot.

Believe it or not, the folks and fans of Nashville are embracing the Preds a little more each year. This makes me wonder, can we finally say that Nashville is a hockey town and put the skepticism to bed?

This year the Preds have had 97% of their building filled from the opener to today. 97%! To put that in perspective, they’re outdrawing the Montreal Canadiens from a percentage standpoint – not absolute capacity because of the size of the Bell Centre – and have had that number increase consistently over the past handful of seasons. Last season was Nashville’s first foray into the 90% capacity range as they filled 94.3% of their seats. Two seasons before they only filled the building to the 87% mark. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a 10% increase in average attendance in just three seasons. If we want to talk attendance proper, let’s not forget that the Bridgestone Arena has a higher capacity than the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. Obviously Winnipeg is a stronger traditional hockey market, but the ability for a non-traditional market like Nashville to generate interest in the league and the sport is undeniable.

With the team consistently making appearances in the playoffs and ranking among the upper echelon of on-ice franchises both professionally and developmentally, the growth of the NHL and hockey at-large in Nashville will be something to keep your eyes on as we move forward. When you also consider the strides the team has made to ingrain itself in the community at-large – think of their season ticket holder events, public jersey unveiling, etc. – its hard to write this franchise off as another typical American bust waiting to happen. Their rebrand in the summer to give it more of that “country” feel has only furthered their spot in the sports culture of the city. It’s just one example of a step previous teams have failed to take.

If the Preds continue to make an impact the way they have the past three seasons, we may just have to file “Smashville” under the column of hockey towns after all. Don’t kid yourself on that one, that is a very, very good thing for hockey lovers everywhere, regardless of your country.

Comments (31)

  1. Can you say 2013 All-Star Game in SMASHVILLE?

    Well if there isn’t a lock-out that is…

  2. “This year the Preds have had 97% of their building filled from the opener to today. 97%! To put that in perspective, they’re outdrawing the Montreal Canadiens from a percentage standpoint – not absolute capacity because of the size of the Bell Centre”

    That is incorrect, though it’s not your fault. Look here: http://www.nhl.com/ice/gamestats.htm?fetchKey=20122MTLSATALL&sort=homeTeam.teamName&viewName=summary

    So you can see that, according the NHL.com, the Habs have sold out 19 of 20 games. The one game they didn’t sell out, versus Winnipeg, they sold 2 tickets. Having watched that game, and seen more than 2 people in the crowd, I’m pretty sure there is an error.
    Going back to the ESPN number, 19 games multiplied by sellout (21,273) = 404,187. Exactly what ESPN thinks they got in 20 games.

    • You might on to something Kevin, according the NHL game report of that game, “The sellout crowd of 21,273 broke into their signature “Ole, ole, ole, ole” chant moments after Lars Eller completed the first hat trick of his NHL career”.
      So, they probably have a 100% capacity crowd this year.

      http://www.nhl.com/ice/recap.htm?id=2011020580

      Not to take anything away from Nashville, I believe they’re doing things the right way. It’s great to see a non-traditional market team succeed by doing their own thing.

  3. thank you for the positive comments about nashville and the preds,it has been a long struggle .with local ownership i believe we are finally over the hump.on a side note score mobile has to be the greatest sports app ever!

  4. Nashville has always been a “hockey market” in someway or another. Hockey arrived in Nashville in 1962 as the Dixie Flyers and Knoxville both in the EHL This actually makes hockey second longest tenure of any “pro” sports in the state of Tennessee, baseball being first. Only three seasons have they been under 14,000 and those seasons ownership ran off all most all corporate support.

  5. Seats are also a lot cheaper in Nashville then in Montreal.

    • I think you missed the point of the article

    • Montreal does not have an NFL team 2 miles away. It does not have a SEC football and basketball team 10 miles away. It does not have a NBA team 3 hours away. All of these things happen during the Hockey season and all of them except the NBA team has a deeper history here. They are also all traditional Southern pastimes. Montreal is not in the South. Way to try to be negative.

  6. Don’t forget, it is also significant that football reigns supreme here, not only in Nashville where I live but the entire area. It is comparable to the passion Canadians feel for hockey. So the fact that the first part of the NHL season overlaps with pro and college football is something that should not be ignored. The Predators, and the teams that came before them in Nashville, have managed to carve out a niche and done so quite nicely. Honestly, I don’t really care of we are “accepted” into the fraternity by Canadian or even NHL fans. I’m just happy that the sport has caught on here and has continued to grow. I would rather open the eyes of players rather than other fans because when it comes time to luring free agents then players around the league will recognize Nashville as a great place to play and a place where we support and appreciate our players.

  7. I say good on ya Nashville , all the way from Edmonton ,Alberta. (although I am a huge Canuck fan ) Great series against Van. last year. I am glad that the game of hockey is growing some places in the south but at the same time also wish that the places the game is not growing in would be moved to cities and areas where they would blossom …. but in the end I wish Nashville continued success in there franchise and for their fans to continue supporting a great game Eh . ; )

    • Thank you. And I agree with you. If it is not working in a city, let’s move that team to a place that appreciates the best sport on earth.
      And if we see you this post season, I hope it’s as good as last year, just with a different result.

  8. My wife and I starter going to games on December 4, 2010. Since that first game we have become 12 pack ticket holders (since we live over 3 hours from Smashville season tickets would not work for us). Nashville is a hockey town. Come to a game, here the near constant chants, feel the electricity. Watch on TV. Compare our crowds to others. 97% this year. And yes, tickets are cheaper but so are most things in the South. Things were cheaper in Atlanta too, but look at them. Watch the Dallas Stars games. We watched a Saturday noon game earlier this year and the arena was empty. Look at the Coyotes. Look at most not traditional Hockey towns.
    To the writer of the column, thank you for it.

  9. Several members of my family have been Preds season ticket holders for many years now. They all drive 200+ miles round trip for each game because they love hockey, even when we are on a losing streak. My niece was driving from Knoxville (360miles round trip) for games, I was driving from Huntsville, Alabama (226 miles round trip), and the season ticket holders next to us, a family of four, were driving from Chattanooga (266miles round trip). That’s commitment. We love the Preds!

  10. Here in Smashville we appreciate your article, attention and props. However if you lived here you’d know that Nashville is already, very much, a hockey town. We LOVE our Preds passionately and consistently. … also, regarding our attendance growth over the past few years, keep in mind that this is in spite of and during an economic crisis. GO PREDS!!!

  11. Thank you for acknowledging how the city of Nashville has embraced the Preds. I went to my first Preds game in December of 2009, I had fun, and started going to a few more games through out the season. Come Spring they were in full play off push mode, and I was there at the very end of the regular season. I attended my first play off game against Chicago that year, and thats when I became a real Fan. Last year I purchased a flex 13 package and also attended several other games in addition to that. I went from going to probably about 10 games during the 2009-2010 season, to about 20 last year, and this year, I am proud to say, if all goes according to plan, by the end of the regular season, I will have attended 38 out of 41 home games. I have truly fallen in love with this game. I was a full on football addict prior to hockey, but now, football is a distant second to my new number 1 sport, hockey! GO Preds!

    • Nice to hear that you’ve embraced hockey so much!

      I must say that I’m jealous about how many games you see. I go to 2 games a year here in Vancouver. It’s $71 per game for the cheapest seats, nosebleed (think Row 20 upper deck). Lower bowl is $120-150. And this is for non-marquee games (price goes up if it’s a game vs Detroit, Washington etc). I guess that’s the price we pay for the longest sellout streak in the league (since 2003-2004 season I believe….no incentive to lower prices?) but holy jeebus I don’t know how people afford to go to games.

      /end rant : )

  12. I think it’s the media that has been slow to give NSH credit for its sucesses. Anyone who follows hockey (and at least watches the NSH games when your own team is playing them) can see that hockey is doing quite well there.

    It’s a cool story really. Not a traditional place for hockey to latch on (ie. not in a Canadian city where strong sales are all but guaranteed…hockey is religion after all). Kudos to the ownership for involving the community and understanding the market, and kudos to the fans for embracing the team.

    From a Canucks fan, it was a really nice experience playing against the Preds (Trotz is the man!) last playoffs and I wish you good luck. Just not against us : )

  13. it makes me feel great that all of those fans choose hockey over other sports, i wonder how much of an impact carrie underwood makes for fans going lol

  14. The NHL had a lot of misses in it’s expansion to the south but this is not one of them. I just hope they can maintain it if/when the team has a few seasons in a row out of the playoffs.

  15. Nashville is becoming a hockey town because the fans are beginning to transfer college sports traditions to the local NHL team. I watched a few Nashville games and the place sounded like a combination of college football and college basketball crowd. Once you get traditions like that going, you can maintain a constant crowd.

  16. My first game was the night after Christmas in 1998, and though I didn’t know anything about hockey, I went to another game that year, then one of my teachers started letting some of us get tickets, and I went with a good friend of mine to some games, learned the game, and fell in love with it. In 2004, the Preds put out a “Playoff Push” package, where if you bought the remaining season’s games, you had 2nd crack at playoff tix (after season tix holders of course), we jumped at those, and went to the first playoff games here in Nashville. After that season, we decided to get season tickets ourselves, and ended up with 2 seats in 303, which if you know ANYTHING about the Preds, you know that’s where the fun happens. Sadly, he had to drop out, and then the lockout happened, but I kept my tickets, and have missed only about 6-7 games (including preseason and playoff games) since March of 2004.

    What I think makes Nashville so different is that you have people that perhaps know nothing about the sport other than it’s played on ice, and they take the chance on it, and many fall in love with it. The crowd definitely adds to the atmosphere, and it’s nothing to hear a chant start from one part of the arena, and before you know it, it’s spread all over the building. Red Wing games are a special event here, in that even though there are many Wings fans in the crowd, the volume of Preds fans make the hair on your neck stand up. For anyone that still questions whether Nashville is a hockey town, even after the Vancouver series last season, needs to make a trip here to see it in person. I’ve talked to several people from Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, and other places, and they all compliment us on the environment inside the building, and make special note of how loud we are, and in some cases, that they wish their fans were as into the game as we are.

  17. Is everyone in Nashville this nice? Their fans seem to represent on the internet better than most others!

  18. I went to Minny to get away from Craig Leopold, but that cheapskate followed me. also Chris mason got his look from me, and Mark Stuart aquire his “technique” from me.

  19. Thanks for the nice article on Nashville. My husband talked me into going to my first hockey game in 1999 to see the Preds. I am not a sports fan at all and did not want to go. We have been season ticket holders ever since. I LOVE hockey and can’t imagine Nashville without the Predators here. Everyone who knows me cannot believe I am such a fanatic now but I’m like “y’all just HAVE to go to a hockey game just one time and you will understand!”. A lot of folks here are newbies like me but if I find out you are a hockey fan, no matter what country you are from, then high fives!

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