One of the strengths of the Nashville Predators is their focus on developing a love of hockey among local kids, through their support of amateur leagues, the sponsorship of the GOAL program which gets little boys and girls on the ice in hockey gear to try the sport out, and numerous other endeavors. It's simply a facet of selling hockey in the South; it's not just about pushing tickets, but establishing a culture as well.
A role model of sorts for the Predators are the Dallas Stars, in many ways the model of a southern NHL franchise. Their outreach has taken the form of managing a number of ice rinks in the Dallas metropolitan area, but as Brandon Worley writes today over at Defending Big D, that commitment is meeting up against the hard realities of economics. The sole rink accessible to the south side of Dallas is in danger of closure, as hockey players, coaches, and parents get caught amid the competing interests of the team and local government:
That Saturday over 250 people showed up for the meeting at the Starcenter, filling the upstairs area with angry and concerned players, skaters, parents and coaches. Surprisingly, [Dallas Stars President] Jeff Cogen himself showed up and fielded questions for the group for over an hour and a half.
"The meeting started off a little rocky, since he basically started off explaining why the team made this decision. But as he heard from more and more people and saw their passion for both the rink and the team, and in the end he walked over to me and handed his business card to me, saying we needed to set up a meeting the next week with some concrete proposals on how to get this turned around."
The local city council, however, appears unwilling to renegotiate the rink's lease (sound familiar?), leaving the Stars few options to try and stem growing financial losses. Is a part of the small, but growing hockey community in Dallas going to be left to rot on the vine?