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A sports fan: Choosing a team

Continuing my experiment with trying to become a fan of another team, I am partially motivated to choose a team that is different from Detroit. I listed the following qualities for choosing Detroit in my previous post: a rich history, good management and ownership, winning culture, and class. I provided two requirements for my new team previously: first, that it be a team without much recent success, and second, that it be a newer team.

To make it easier on myself, since I normally live in NJ, I decided to choose a team in the east as well. I have decided on the Florida Panthers. They have reached the playoffs only four or five times in their history. They are hampered by a lack of money and have struggled to make the cap floor in much of the salary cap era. Even after a season that they, perhaps luckily, won the division, they dropped back to the basement with the worst point total in the past season. 

One thing I noticed right away is the relative lack of in depth coverage on the Panthers, especially compared to the Wings. A fan of a less covered team might have to do more research, especially on prospects, and might have more room to make his own thoughts and judgments on his team. 

Something I have started to wonder about is what might bring someone who has no geographical connections to a team to become its fan. The most obvious pull is winning. A team that wins consistently is bound to attract followers. Another pull in most sports is the presence of a star player. I do not think this has the same effect in hockey as it does in some other sports, for numerous reasons. One is that hockey is not as heavily covered as a sport like football in the US, which is partially due to being less popular. Another is that as I mentioned before, a star player cannot dominate the game the way star players can dominate in a game like basketball. But I have never heard a hockey fan say that he was a fan of so and so team because of a certain player. 

Another reason to like a team is because of its style of play. But a team that lacks the previous two qualities is not one of the better teams and in the NHL, probably plays a tight defensive style. Again, I do not know any hockey fans that follow a certain team because of its suffocating defensive play. A fan seems much more likely to like a team if it plays a highly risky and offensive style, but the way the NHL has been headed recently, few of those teams exist, and arguably none. 

My second step in this experiment will be to become familiar with the team and its history. Since there is some time before the season begins, maybe I can enter the Panthers' fan community and find out any interesting stories about why they are Panthers' fans.

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Comments

Avatar

I have more than a bit of experience with picking another teams as I’ve seen my favorite teams ripped out from under my feet on two different occasions (Minnesota North Stars, Atlanta Thrashers). While I understand and appreciate your goal to seek a team out on the edge, it is fraught with perils. You might want to ask yourself how you might feel if that team was relocated. Florida has consistently had trouble drawing fans. Unlike others I’m not about to blame the people of southern Florida or existing fans for that problem. It goes far beyond that to weak ownership, mismanagement and a horrible arena location. Some of those problems may be solved but many of them remain and the stability of the franchise is questionable. Fortunately, it is my understanding that the team has a long-term lease with the arena but we’ve seen these things broken in the past.

I’m not trying to discourage you from such a choice. Just be weary of it. It could break your heart.

FWIW, when the North Stars headed South, I too turned to Detroit for almost all the reasons you listed. At the time I was living in Atlanta doing my best to convince the league that NHL hockey should come here. Once they did I embraced it 100%. I converted many a Southerner into a true hockey fan. Unfortunately, piss poor management, horrible ownership, a lack of patience by the NHL and losing season after losing season doomed the franchise, not the people of Atlanta or the fans. I was forced to return my focus to the Wings.

Now, I try to embrace the Nashville Predators as they are the closest team to my home (4 hours). It’s a great city and those who have been to the arena can attest that there is a very nice hockey culture that has been created. I just hope this one doesn’t slap me in the face once again.

Posted by evileye on 08/04/13 at 10:48 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

EE, Panthers ownership has been buying up real-estate around the arena for years so they get profits outside of hockey, but as a by-product of hockey there.  They can still pay the bills even if they are cheap.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 08/04/13 at 11:01 AM ET

Avatar

That’s good to know. Unlike many hockey fans I want to see the team succeed in southern Florida.

Posted by evileye on 08/04/13 at 05:32 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

I think I’d lean more toward the Hurricanes or the Isles. I know they aren’t from the more recent era of expansion, but at least with the Canes, they had a move in that era, so it kinda sorta feels like a newer team. With the Canes, you don’t have much recent success, but you have a solid foundation to root for—an ownership that likes hockey and wants wins, a core of the Staal brothers and a great goalie (if he can stay healthy), and a smaller but enthusiastic fan base.

I know the Isles don’t really come close to the new definition, not even the cheap way I made it fit for the Canes. But they are at least an original expansion era team. They have been as terrible as it gets, so that meets one of your funny criteria. smile And while anyone in their right mind should be terrified of the ownership, I think now is the time to buy on the Isles. They finally saw a number of their young players come together and gel, made the playoffs, and legitimately gave the Pens hell in that series. They are moving to Brooklyn, so they will be more accessible than ever both literally/geographically and figuratively when talking about marketing and media coverage. And if you’re usually living in NJ, you’d have regular opportunities to go see home games or make friends with other fans of the team. And say what you will, but the Isles have a rabid fan base. They’ve been so bad and the old arena was so terrible that it might not have shown the last 10+ years, but I think last season shows, they’ve just been so crushed that they needed ANYTHING positive to get them to come out of the woodwork. But I think they are there and they love that team.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 08/05/13 at 08:11 AM ET

EDJ's avatar

Nathan,

I’m from the New York area and I’ve always had an aversion to teams that are in my neighborhood. It may be an irrational need to stray from the beaten path, but although I agree that now is the time to “buy” on the Islanders, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The Islanders also have a lot of significant history, especially having won a few cups even though they are an expansion team.

Also, picking a team that looks hopeful, whether it be the Canes or the Islanders seems like I’m taking the easy way out, which would defeat the purpose of the experiment.

Posted by EDJ on 08/05/13 at 10:06 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Posted by EDJ on 08/05/13 at 11:06 AM ET

Fair enough. I’d call it an “interesting” experiment if you want to subject yourself to following Panther’s hockey (sorry to the other Panther’s fan out there). :p

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 08/05/13 at 10:24 AM ET

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