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07-29-2004, 01:15 PM
  #1
Darth Milbury
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Hockey in Tampa

Just curious: Now that the Bolts have won the cup, and basically have one of the best young teams in hockey, how is the NHL being received down there in Tampa? I've visited the Tampa-St. Pete area several times, thought it looked like a great place to live, but always doubted that hockey would stick in such a warm and steamy city (despite all the northern transplants).

It think it is sort of ironic that the two warmest cities in the NHL (Tampa and Miami) now basically have two of the best young teams. Its not hard to imagine a situation in Florida that is equivalent to the old Alberta situation with both Calgary and Edmonton being great teams. Teams are going to go on their southern road trips and get their butts handed two them by two great FLA teams.

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07-29-2004, 02:18 PM
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It think it is sort of ironic that the two warmest cities in the NHL (Tampa and Miami) now basically have two of the best young teams.
What have the Panthers done to merit even being mentioned in the same PARAGRAPH let alone SENTENCE with the world champion Tampa Bay Lightning?

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07-29-2004, 04:16 PM
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Pete has a point, but anyway, on to your question, Darth.

I'd say that hockey is past being a "fad" here, the team's been here a dozen years now, plus we all know that people like a winner. Fans here got severely screwed when Espo was forced by the Japanese owners to dismantle a team that appeared to be on its way up, and I think that left a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths. There are some serious diehards who've been there since the beginning (a lot of the people on this board!), but there were also a lot of more casual fans who were turned off by some really, REALLY bad seasons and who were waiting for stable ownership and a decent team before they put their faith in the Bolts again and started going to games.

It will be very interesting to see what happens with season ticket sales and attendance next season, as there are basically no excuses anymore (i.e., people saying if the team wins they'll show up). Attendance has been rising (I think) since the current ownership took over, but I think that if this team keeps it up, the Bolts may soon be the hottest ticket in town. The Bucs having some problems helps that IMO, as the casual sports fan may be more inclined to go to a Bolts game instead of spending the $$ on a mediocre Bucs team.

The playoffs this year really did capture a new audience, I think. Some of the later rounds were breaking all records for local TV ratings of NHL games. They packed people into the Forum like sardines, and hundreds of people who couldn't get tickets sat outside in the heat and watched the games projected on to the side of a parking garage. (I was at some playoff games with standing room only tickets last year, and people were jammed in then, how they got another thousand into the building on top of that is beyond me) I'm interested to see how high the interest level will be next year and in the coming years, but it was definitely at an all time high this spring.

Hope that helps, I'm kind of just rambling on.

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07-29-2004, 04:22 PM
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It does help, Sontos, and I appreciate the perspective.

And as far as the Cats are concerned: What have they done? Not much. That is pure projection on my part. I think that is a great young organization and headed in the same direction as Tampa. And, I honestly believe that Luongo is the best young player in the NHL. But, Pete is right that Cats have not yet earned the right be considered in the same breath as the Bolts YET.

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07-29-2004, 04:39 PM
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darth Milbury
I think that is a great young organization and headed in the same direction as Tampa. And, I honestly believe that Luongo is the best young player in the NHL.
IMO, Atlanta is the real up-and-coming Southern hockey team. Lehtonen is not terribly far behind Luongo, although he has yet to prove himself in the NHL. I think Lehtonen wins the Calder next season.

Nashville's playoff appearance this season was not a fluke, and they have a very underrated system IMO. I think they are farther along than Florida as well. Nashville is waiting to Legwand to have that *break-through* season like Lecavalier did in 2002-2003. If/when that happens, they could go quickly to the top in the West like Tampa did in the East.

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07-29-2004, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by exterminator-x
IMO, Atlanta is the real up-and-coming Southern hockey team. Lehtonen is not terribly far behind Luongo, although he has yet to prove himself in the NHL. I think Lehtonen wins the Calder next season.

Nashville's playoff appearance this season was not a fluke, and they have a very underrated system IMO. I think they are farther along than Florida as well. Nashville is waiting to Legwand to have that *break-through* season like Lecavalier did in 2002-2003. If/when that happens, they could go quickly to the top in the West like Tampa did in the East.

I completely agree with you about all these teams. Its scary how good the southern contigent of teams is going to be. ATL, FLA, TAMPA, and NASHVILLE will be great teams for years to come.

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07-29-2004, 06:19 PM
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I think Sotnos hit the nail on the head saying that hockey is past being a "fad" and that attendence should go up with no more excuses. It still wont be the #1 sport down here with football always being #1, but they can give the Bucs a challenge if they can be good for several years. I know in the past I would be hesitant to ask my friends to go to hockey games because hockey isnt followed by most people, but people were asking me during the playoffs if I ever had an extra seat I could take them. So I have more options now as more people wanting to go. There will definitely be a bigger following for hockey though when hockey starts up again. However a lockout may hinder that growth which is sad. I dont think its going to be followed passionately like football is but more people will follow it closely and more casual fans will go to have a good time and see a winner.

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07-29-2004, 07:43 PM
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I have had 10 people seek me out this summer to talk about hockey and ask when's opening night and can I hook them up with opening night tickets! These are NOT traditional hockey fans, but people that got caught up watching the playoffs on TV and realized how exciting and FAST the game is and now want to experience it in person. That's like 30 more tickets for my ticket rep to sell for opening night. But don't be fooled, this potential lock-out is horrible timing for this Lightning team. I'm told all ticket package sales are up, even with the CBA lurking. The people that won't buy are single game seats, they will just use that money elsewhere if there's no season (i.e. spring training tickets in March).

Like Sotnos and other have said, when you have a winning hockey team, the press/TV gives it more air time and people have more access to see it and the game is more FUN for everyone, including us diehards

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07-29-2004, 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by missK
But don't be fooled, this potential lock-out is horrible timing for this Lightning team.
I agree, a lockout will be the WORST possible thing to happen to this team, the timing couldn't be worse. Impossible to predict what the outcome might be, but I'd rather not have to find out. Better to start the season on time with interest at an all-time high and ride with it.

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07-29-2004, 08:12 PM
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If players start leaving the team via free agency, it might also wind up hurting interest. I know that attendance on the Island dropped to an all time low when ownership was perceived as not beign willing to invest in the team.

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07-29-2004, 08:16 PM
  #11
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We only have one other important UFA. That's Andreychuk, and he ain't going anywhere! It might be a concern for us in the future, but not right now. Barring a major disaster, the key guys should all be back next season, and my main hope is that the season starts on time.

Like I talked about earlier, dumping a lot of salary killed the fan interest here for a few years, so we certainly know where you're coming from on that!

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07-30-2004, 11:33 AM
  #12
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My experience down here in Sarasota, and maybe it's because everyone knows that I am a lightning fan, but I find the support for the Lightning to be wider and the Bucs deeper.

Let me explain. Down here in Sarasota there are more Buc fans than any other team, but the majority of residents are not Buc fans. They are fans of teams that they left behind up north. For example, in my department, I have 23 employees, 7 are Buc fans. The rest are fans of other teams. When the Bucs won the super bowl, there were 7 very excited fans, and apathy among the rest.

With the Lightning, most in my office didn't follow hockey and they picked up on the Lightning bandwagon. About 15 were watching every game and many are, like MissK said, planning to purchase tickets next year. They aren't going to be big time fans, but folks who watch now and then and buy tickets once or twice a year. They thought it was nice that the Lightning won, but it wasn't as big a deal for them as it was for the Buc fans when they won.

They are still going to be bigger Dolphin, Bronco, Bears and Packer fans then they ever will be LIghtning fans. But the lightning is their team.

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07-30-2004, 12:47 PM
  #13
Darth Milbury
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sotnos
We only have one other important UFA. That's Andreychuk, and he ain't going anywhere! It might be a concern for us in the future, but not right now. Barring a major disaster, the key guys should all be back next season, and my main hope is that the season starts on time.

Like I talked about earlier, dumping a lot of salary killed the fan interest here for a few years, so we certainly know where you're coming from on that!
I guess the other side on that issue is ticket prices. Lets say that Tampa gave Cullimore some kind of ridiculous contract and then had to raise prices as a result. That might have killed fan interest as well. Islander ticket prices have gone through the roof since Yashin came.

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07-30-2004, 12:48 PM
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donnie D
My experience down here in Sarasota, and maybe it's because everyone knows that I am a lightning fan, but I find the support for the Lightning to be wider and the Bucs deeper.

Let me explain. Down here in Sarasota there are more Buc fans than any other team, but the majority of residents are not Buc fans. They are fans of teams that they left behind up north. For example, in my department, I have 23 employees, 7 are Buc fans. The rest are fans of other teams. When the Bucs won the super bowl, there were 7 very excited fans, and apathy among the rest.

With the Lightning, most in my office didn't follow hockey and they picked up on the Lightning bandwagon. About 15 were watching every game and many are, like MissK said, planning to purchase tickets next year. They aren't going to be big time fans, but folks who watch now and then and buy tickets once or twice a year. They thought it was nice that the Lightning won, but it wasn't as big a deal for them as it was for the Buc fans when they won.

They are still going to be bigger Dolphin, Bronco, Bears and Packer fans then they ever will be LIghtning fans. But the lightning is their team.

This is basically my sense of any warm weather city. And, it is certainly that way our here in Los Angeles. There are lots of die hard loyal King fans, but this will always be a basketball city, not a hockey town.

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07-30-2004, 04:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donnie D
My experience down here in Sarasota, and maybe it's because everyone knows that I am a lightning fan, but I find the support for the Lightning to be wider and the Bucs deeper.
My experience in Tampa is the exact opposite. Practically everyone is a Bucs "fan." Even people who otherwise don't care about sports follow the team, go to game parties on Sunday afternoons and make it to the stadium when they can score seats. The vast majority of them, however, are far from being diehards. I don't necessarily want to call them fair-weather fans, or bandwagon fans (although there are plenty of that variety), but the depth of their devotion to the Buccaneers is highly questionable. This has been the case, more or less, since the Bucs first deep playoff run in '99 (and it was well on its way two years before that). The Bucs were hot, it was trendy to be a fan (and still is) and it became a social activity that even the casual fans (who are legion) could enjoy.

With the Lighting, there are obviously fewer of us. Far fewer. But, on average, the depth of our passion for the Bolts (and hockey in general) is profound. While the Stanley Cup will probably change things, I think the core fanbase for the Lightning is more loyal, more fervent and more obsessive than that of the Buccaneers. Or at least in a very different way: The most dedicated Buccaneers fan shows up at RJS with his face painted and an outrageous red-pewter-and-black costume, while the most dedicated Lightning fan travels regularly to Pensacola to catch long-shot prospects in action.

Two different kinds of fan. Both are great to have, but the latter -- to me -- is more "deep."

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07-30-2004, 07:17 PM
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Although I'm not adding much here - I think this was a fantastic thread to read and great intelligent discussion.

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