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Location, location, location!

Monday, May 29, 2006
Just a few days ago, me and Dudski had some commenting back and forth about the current state of the NHL, and what they're doing good and what they're doing not so good. One of the more interesting things that came up, and I'd never really put it into perspective until recently, was the NHL's recent movement -- both in relocation and expansion -- to find sports markets that don't have a major sports team to call their own, and seize on the opportunities of communities looking for one. And not just big, already recognized cities that lack teams, but also cities that are still growing and on the rise.

With that in mind, it's no wonder that Columbus -- and not a place like Cleveland -- won their bid for a new NHL team to join the league at the start of the 2000-2001 season. This, if anything, is probably a good example of taking advantage of where your rivals (NFL, MLB, etc.) are, and where you can go to not just grow the sport and draw in fans of an area, but also beat your sports rivals to the punch. Regardless of if another major sports team comes to a city later on, so long as the 'original' team has managed to secure a spot with the market there, they'll do well in most cases.

It should also be mentioned that the population of Cleveland has been in a major decline for decades, while Columbus' has been rising at a moderately stable rate. Also, despite Columbus being a predominately college sports city with the Ohio State Buckeyes here, the Blue Jackets can take contentment from the fact that there is very little cross-over with their respective seasons, as would be the case if they were elsewhere in the state, where they'd have to compete even harder for attendance and viewership with professional teams like the Browns, Bengals, Reds, Indians, Cavs ... the list goes on and on.

It's a shrewd strategy, really. Carolina is probably one of the best examples of it succeeding as well. Anyone watching the playoffs this year has seen just how insane the "Caniacs" are, and how much they love their Hurricanes as they've gotten better and better. Some may say that their fans are just fairweather, and they might be right in some ways. But you can't really draw in stable fans without having a stable period of winning. It's almost like a fan evolution, where the more a team wins, the more new people are drawn in and become less of a casual/fairweather fan, and more of a fan of the team themselves, as well as the sport, regardless of the good or the bad. It takes a lot of patience, but it usually pays off.

The only drawback, of course, is that teams placed in lesser known cities or areas of a state take longer to find recognition outside of their immediate area. But it's almost like comparing the Tortoise and the Hare, where instead of going for that instant gratification of a landmark city or recognizable area of a state, slow and steady allows for a stable foundation both in the area, as well as throughout the nation as the teams get better and better.

I do think that this will pay off in the long run, though. The question is if sports fans are willing to be patient with a league on the rebound when it comes to successfully gaining respect and recognition.
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Name: Michael
Home: San Tan Valley, Arizona, United States
About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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