Friday, August 31, 2007

UP AT 6: WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS, SHOULD STAY ETCHED IN MEMORY

As you contemplated which faculty you're going to say you have tenure in when you crash that frosh week kegger...

  • Canada rolling snakes-eyes last night at the FIBA Americas -- they settled for fifth place and a spot in next summer's last-chance Olympic qualifier after losing by six to Puerto Rico -- just left was a general bereftness. Our guys had it in their hands (then came the forced shots, missed freebies, too many open looks for three allowed), but considering Canada Basketball has been accused of being a gong show for several years, why is it such a shock when our team's best effort isn't enough?

    Cathal Kelly's column in yesterday's Toronto Star about how Australia turned around its men's soccer with "scorched-earth" approach is a good companion to any of today's Canada Basketball coverage. Kelly's writing about Canada's soccer woes, but it's almost like hoops could have been subbed in.

    Keep an eye on the Eurobasket tourney that begins in a couple days to see if any top teams get upset and have to go into next year's qualifier.
  • It's not 1978 over again. Cool Standings has the Massholes winning the AL East by six games over the Evil Empire, despite the sweep. That site also figures that odd-on the National League won't have a 90-win team.
  • New rule: No ranting about David Beckham signing (his knee's buggered) unless you can name whateve was the worst signing in MLS history previously.
  • It's official: The Kingston Memorial Centre really is straight out of Siberia. Frontenacs forward Cory Emmerton told CP that he's not worried playing in a humid arena in Omsk in today's Game 3 of the so-called Super Series: "I'm kind of used to it in Kingston where I play. There's no ventilation there either so it's always foggy this time of year."

    What's are cynical bastards with a Kingston connection going to do when that place is finally torn down?
  • What's going on in women's hockey? First the NWHL (which had a team in Ottawa) went on hiatus. Now there's no host city for the women's under-18 worlds, which Canada is set to host in January. People mock the WNBA, but it draws 14,592 fans for a playoff game, the players make enough to live on. Meantime, the women in Canada's most popular team sport are left out in the cold. Of course, Gary Bettman has enough trouble getting that many people into some NHL arenas to worry about providing women's players with opportunities the way David Stern did.

That's all for now. (In case anyone's wondering, the Phoenix Mercury beating the San Antonio Silver Stars most definitely does not make up for what happened in the Suns-Spurs series.)

3 comments:

Dennis Prouse said...

Let's be honest about the level of hockey being played in the NWHL -- it is probably the equivalent of Midget Single "A", and that's being generous. I say this because the Canadian National Women's Team toured Alberta while getting ready for Torino, and played against a series of boys' Midget "A" teams. Not select teams, but just local Midget rep teams. They won one game, tied one, and lost the rest.

Question -- how much are people paying to go see their local Midget "A" league? Nothing, save for perhaps a couple of bucks for the 50/50 draw. Therefore, given all the hockey choices out there for fans in, say, Ottawa (67s, Olympiques, all of the Tier II teams, Gee Gees) it's going to be pretty difficult to ask anyone to plunk down any more than a few bucks to see a game in the NWHL. (This sounds a bit like the problem that the Vancouver Ravens had in the NLL - they were asking people to pay $25 to see the same players they could see for $10 in the summer playing in the WLA.)

I don't say all of this to be down on women's hockey -- I greatly enjoy watching it at the Olympics, and I'm delighted to see the tremendous growth in it at the grassroots level. All I am saying is that the NWHL's business model was probably wildly optimistic. For example, I am a huge hockey fan, yet I never even considered catching an Ottawa Raiders game. That suggests to me they need to focus their marketing efforts on young girls who play hockey and their families, because their odds of attracting Joe Hockey Fan to their games are pretty slim.

If I am in their shoes, I am focusing on two things:

1. Sponsorship $$$ - they need to tap into a large corporation(s) retailing to women, and who are looking for some exposure. Finding corporate sponsorship in a competitive field, though, is always easier said than done. If I had a nickel for every worthy group that approached my organization for money over the years, I could have retired by now.

2. Cutting down on travel costs. For amateur/minor pro leagues like this one, travel costs are always the killer. This probably means that when it comes back, the NWHL is going to have to be significantly scaled back, and likely become a bus league only for the time being. (Given how many half-empty trains Via Rail runs between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, perhaps they should become a sponsor by providing travel. It would be kind of like getting federal funding through the back door.)

sager said...

Those are good points... they should really be looking at sponsors and subsidized travel.

The point is that no one thinks about how the NBA back in the mid-'90s pushed having a women's league and covered its losses for the first few shaky years. Now the league's 12 years old, some of the teams are making money, about half are independently owned and a couple do not use a NBA arena. Twelve of the 13 teams averaged had an average attendance close to or more than 7,000.

Would it be that hard to have that kind of success on a smaller scale for hockey?

Dennis Prouse said...

Hard to say -- Canada has such a deep love for hockey that I would never completely rule it out. OTOH, as mentioned there is pretty fierce competition for the eyes and dollars of hockey fans in every market in Canada.

I would agree, though, that the NHL's reluctance to get behind the NWHL is disappointing. Just from the perspective of building goodwill and expanding the NHL's female fan base, it might be a good move. Getting bold and innovative, though, just isn't in the DNA of your average NHL owner, and I get the sense that Bettman picks his spots pretty carefully when it comes to trying to prod them along.