Cold Hard Rants: The Sad Reality of Southern Hockey

Posted by Drew Mindell in Cold Hard Rants,Columns on August 11, 2008 — 15 Comments


The Montreal Canadiens. The most storied hockey franchise of all time. Arguably the most storied sports franchise of all time in professional team sports. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The Stanley Cup Champions, once removed. One of the more high profile American based NHL teams. Pronger and Burke and Teemu and Niedermayer. Division rivals, Tampa Bay and Florida. The New Jersey Devils backstopped by the best goalie of all time, Martin Brodeur (kiss off, Patrick Roy).  The Washington Capitals. The “it” team during last year’s playoffs. Some guy named Ovechkin plays for them. Ever heard of him? Wanted to see him? Wanted to see him for free? Wanted to see all the aforementioned teams and players for free too? The Carolina Hurricanes, 2006 Stanley Cup Champions have your meal ticket.

Ten days ago while sitting with my girlfriend at a Durham Bulls game in Durham, North Carolina, I heard a peculiar announcement over the loudspeaker. I couldn’t quite make it out. I heard Carolina Hurricanes tickets and what I thought was the words free tickets. Figuring that I mis-heard I paid it little attention. On our way out, a table sat, unoccupied, and with a collection of pink papers on it. Obliging my contractually mandated inquisitive nature and my strong affinity for bright coloured pieces of paper, I sauntered over to find, unmanned and unmonitored I remind you, a table filled with “Buy one ticket, get one ticket free coupons” for Carolina Hurricanes hockey games. Cool, I thought. Offering free tickets for an exhibition game to build your market. Smart marketing strategy. So, I grabbed one, and boy am I glad I did, so I can share with you this, the final proof we needed that the U.S. Southern Expansion is an unmitigated disaster.

Let’s break this coupon down:

1)      Buy one, get one free: OK, no biggie, buy one get one free.

What I figure: Limit one per person.

In actuality: Limit 8 tickets per person.

The kicker: No one monitoring the table where these are being distributed. An individual could have picked up hundreds of these coupons. 

2)      Receive a free ticket with the purchase of a ticket of equal or greater value.

What I figure: Restricted sections, hard to redeem, tickets sell out quick as a result.

In actuality: The majority of the arena applies to this promo. Only exceptions are the “Champion’s Club”, “V.I.P. Ledge”, and “Upper Goal Zone”.

The kicker: The Hurricane’s have a section called the V.I.P. Ledge. Shouldn’t all 45 people who attend Hurricanes games be V.I.P?

3)      The following games apply to this promotion:

What I figure: Exhibition games. Games played at the same time as another event occurring, creating a conflict that would negatively impact ticket sales for the Hurricanes.

In actuality: Regular season games versus Washington, Montreal (TWICE!), Anaheim, Florida, New Jersey, and Tampa Bay

The kicker: These aren’t games against your Blue Jackets, Coyotes and Kings. These are games against the marquee franchises in the NHL. The Montreal Canadiens. Not only are they THE team to see in the NHL, but these teams had a fierce playoff series not so long ago. 

I’m not a good enough writer to accurately describe the emotions I felt when I saw these tickets being given away. I live in a market where people would gladly fist fight for free tickets if we only had the chance to see NHL games in our market. (The one exhibition game played per year in Winnipeg doesn’t count.) Here I am standing with my mouth agape watching these tickets be given away. Here’s the ultimate kicker:

No one. No one. No one was taking the coupons.

NHL Southern Expansion. Born 1995. Dead 2008. Never fully emerged from an amorphous state. Credibility of NHL “tall-foreheads” died alongside.

For Illegal Curve, I am Drew Mindell.

  • Sooooo…how many of these DID you pick up? Care to send any out? 🙂 I’m thinkin’ ROAD TRIP.

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  • Hey Tick! For a $6.00 Durham Bulls ticket, you get access to the table I spoke about, and can get more than enough slips to accomodate a road trip for you, your buddies, your buddies buddies, and the citizenry of a developing country emerging from the shadows of oppresive communist rule. Latvia can come see their country-man Arters Irbe backstop the ‘Canes! (He’s still their goalie right?)

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  • mateo

    You jerk!

    I suppose the awesome hockey market in Winipeg is the reason the Jets are still around? Oh wait… MY BAD!

    Listen… In the middle of august we have better things to do than sit around with our helmets on wishing the pond would freeze again so we wold have something to do. This time of year we are enjoying golf, baseball, gearing up for football, going to the beach (we have nice beaches here… you should try one)…. Sorry your life isn’t as good or exciting as ours. Sorry you are obviously very bored and bitter on top of that!

    Hockey season kicks off about the same time all of our major universities (it’s how we are educated in the US) kick off their football and basketball seasons… so yes… the Hurricanes have a little competition. And I think they do quite well at averaging over 16,000 people per game (on school nights mostly). We down here are so sorry that the only competition for hockey in Canada is Ice fishing, ice drilling, moose humping, and whatever else you guys do when the world freezes. We have more stuff to do AND we all love our hockey team just as much as you love yours…. if it had survived in that awesome hockey loving nirvana up there in Winapeg…

    So what if they were giving away vouchers in the middle of August in a city 40 miles away for hurricanes??? Big deal? I’m a season ticket holder and it didn’t bother me!

    How many fans did the Jets average last season…. Oh yeah… MY BAD again!!!! Perhaps that is why you are so bitter!

    If you love hockey so much I would think you would be happy it’s expanding to the south. Your beloved Wayne Gretzky doesn’t have a problem w/ hockey in Phoenix…. or LA… Both southern hockey markets… What’s your problem?

  • drewmindell

    Way to add some substantive and intelligent comments to the conversation Mateo! I can’t overstate how valuable your comments are to ensuring a respectful, meaningful dialogue. Keep up the good work!

  • C-Leaguer


    On behalf of all Hurricanes fans I’d like to invite you to come attend one of our games. I’d even be willing to serve as your host and show you around. Come on down, let me show you Hurricanes hockey, then you write about whether southern expansion is the death of the NHL if you want to. Fair enough?

  • drewmindell

    C-Leaguer, I would be pleased to be your guest. I love Southern hospitality. Just tell me when and where I need to be.

  • dakuwan


    You can hardly admonish Mateo’s comments when in your article you’re tossing insults such as “Shouldn’t all 45 people who attend Hurricanes games be V.I.P?” You should expect to get people angry when you attack our team and the fanbase.

    All teams do promotions, not just Southern ones, and not just hockey. Ive been to tons of Bulls games and its hard to find one that isnt doing some kind of promotion to get people into the seats, including i’m sure the one you attended. Before taking the easy way out of that example because its minor league how many freebies have you gotten in hockey games you’ve attended.

    You may consider the Canadiens a marquee team but hey haven’t been much lately and don’t mean much to us. The Hurricanes have never lost a playoff series to a Canadian hockey team, we don’t worry about them. Yes they have a rich history but you’re comparing apples to oranges when expecting a market that is 10 years old to really care about a team that never poses a threat to us in the time of our existence. Do we know our history, of course. Does that mean we should be scared of the Leafs too who haven’t won a cup since most fans have been born? That’s really an aside to the root argument but it really seemed to bother you that they were on the voucher.

    Attendance is different here but its not due to lack of enthusiasm or love of our team. It is as Mateo says, without the insult. There are other teams in the area from minor league soccer to NBA to NFL to some of the biggest NCAA basketball teams in the nation. With all this competition the Canes still thrive and post strong attendance and season ticket sales. Yes Canadian teams sellout every game, which is an outstanding feat I agree, it isnt hard to admit there isnt a lot of competition sports-wise for the population’s attention. Add to that the enormous amount of corporate sales and you account for the attendance numbers and lack of need for promotions.

    Perhaps you didnt see anyone taking the coupons because they have been offered for the past few weeks at the games. Could it be possible those that wanted/needed them already grabbed some previously and you assumed incorrectly and towards what would fit your preconceived notions? Yeah one person could grab a 100, but whats the point? Could he have used them all, no. Would they have been gone faster, yes. And in your eyes that would’ve been better cause you’d have seen less on the table even though less would have been used.

    Don’t fall back on tired cliches of how “Southern Hockey has failed” and how great other markets are, blah, blah, blah. Do some research and ask some serious questions instead of going with the same old useless and lazy arguments. If you look at our attendance in relation to other markets you’ll see that “Southern Hockey” and the Hurricanes are just fine. Also if you look around at the sports landscape, excluding the even lazier assumption that its only Nascar (more applicable to Charlotte than Raleigh), and you’ll strengthen your argument either way, both for or against. Perhaps you’ll even learn something and realize that all is not as it seems.

  • C-Leaguer

    Saturday, November 1st 3:00 p.m. Canes vs. Oilers. I don’t know that there will be a more exciting game all season. Not only is it the return of the Oilers, and probably more important to most people, Erik Cole, but it is also the first home game after the typical early season road trip so that Canes games don’t interfere with the State Fair. I wish it were later so we could do an afternoon tailgate. I guess we’ll just have to grill some burgers for lunch then.

    Seriously, if you’re interested, come on down. I imagine it will be an pretty exciting game.

  • drewmindell

    C-Leaguer, if the game starts earlier, we will just have to start tailgating and drinking earlier. Nothing says die-hard fan like tailgating for breakfast.

  • As Buffalo Bills fans could tell you (except this week, thanks Toronto!!!), it’s never too early to start tailgating.

  • C-Leaguer

    Awesome, come on down then. We’ll be tailgating. It may be an awkward day for it as our current tailgate spot has been transformed so we’ll likely be trying out a new spot that day.

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