With the lockout ending and the 2013 NHL season about to begin, many clubs are attempting to repair their damaged relationships with the fans. Most of the NHL franchises are offering deals like discounted merchandise, discounted or even free concessions at the arenas, and special events during the week leading up to opening night, January 19th. Here is my attempt to grade the Washington Capitals’ offerings as part of their Fan Appreciation Week.
- All practices and scrimmages during training camp are free and open to the public – B-. The Caps have been doing this for years as standard practice. There’s nothing new here. However, it’s a great way to introduce and educate a non-traditional hockey fan base.
- The quasi-fanfest held on the first day of training camp (Red Rockers, Slapshot, face painters and airbrush artists, bounce houses, and the beloved PA, Wes Johnson) – C. This is cool for those who could make it on such short notice that camp was starting.
- Caps Fan Appreciation Special Event at Verizon Center on January 17th. Includes a practice, complimentary concessions, Q&A with players, Rod Langway and Peter Bondra appearance, games, and 20% sale in the team store – C. Another fanfest like event. Being able to meet Langway and Bondra is cool but come on, only 20% in the already insanely marked up team store?
- Daily prizes on WashingtonCaps.com throughout Fan Appreciation Week – A-. Prizes include meet and greets with players, autographed items, and tickets to enjoy the suite life. This is how you keep fans engaged during a short lead up to the start of the season, during the work week.
- Season ticket holders will make out like bandits with merchandise, concessions credits, and higher end prizes – B. The Capitals know where their bread is buttered. It’s nice to see them reward those fans who suffered greatly as they paid in good faith for tickets they couldn’t use. If I was a season ticket holder, I would expect more though.
BONUS: The best, post lockout deal is offered by NHL GameCenter Live. The entire 2013 season for $49.99 – A. This literally puts the game back into the hands of the fans who might not have the opportunity to take NHL clubs up on their offers for tickets. Fans deprived of NHL hockey can watch all the out-of-market games on their smartphones, tablets, computers, and game consoles. This is a great way for the NHL to re-engage the fans.
Ultimately, the best way for an NHL club to woo fans back is to win. That will only add to the pressure placed on teams to start fast and finish strong during a lockout shortened, 48 game season. It will be very interesting to see how players, teams, and organizations respond.