Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 09/19/13 at 01:48 PM ET
from Adam Proteau of The Hockey News,
There’s ample evidence tribalism is thriving like never before in the NHL. In Chicago – where fans once stayed away from the arena in droves – the Blackhawks just had their sixth annual, wildly successful fan convention. In Toronto, the Maple Leafs sell out the Air Canada Centre as they always have, but now they’re also luring thousands of other fans to the adjoining Maple Leaf Square to watch a game on a giant outdoor screen. In Vancouver, Mike Gillis and John Tortorella – who are to dourness as Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were to illicit substances in the 1970s – recently held a town hall of sorts with Canucks fans. In Ottawa and more recently in Nashville, there have been concerted efforts by Sens and Preds ownership to limit the number of rival fans (Leafs and Habs fans in Ottawa and Blackhawks fans in Tennessee) who show up at home games and water down the tribal experience. And the NHL’s newfound love affair with outdoor games (and the visceral, physical feeling of being out in the elements watching the sport) is getting to feverish levels, with six games scheduled for this coming season.
So if it feels like the tribe is getting bigger and being part of a tribe is more engaging, enveloping and demanding than ever before, that’s because it is. “The game is growing everywhere,” says Maple Leafs left winger James van Riemsdyk. “When I was playing in Philly, you could see the interest rise every year. Obviously hockey was already huge in Toronto, but you see the people in Maple Leaf Square and you realize it’s another level now. It’s awesome.”
Added Boston Bruins left winger Brad Marchand: “It feels like it’s getting more popular every year. People love to support their teams and it seems like they get more passionate every day. It’s great as a player to have fans appreciate what you do and we want more.”
In effect, the tribalism that begins as a natural phenomenon is being stoked and cultivated by NHL teams to acquire and retain fans and corporate partners.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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