The End of Hockeytown

With the Wings failing to sell out playoff games last spring and their opener this season, I've seen a lot of talk about "The End of Hockeytown" around the web. They've got a thread over at Rangerland that references a recent piece by the Freep so I took the time to put together a little rant/response that I've decided to repost here...

This is a debate you hear a lot around the Wings sites and you're never going to just get one answer.

Personally, I think "Hockeytown" was a misnomer anyway. It was their marketing slogan for 1996-97 and they just happened to win the Cup that year so it stuck. Had they gone with it a year earlier, it would have disappeared.

A lot of Detroit bloggers are quick to say it's not the economy but I don't see how you can ignore that. Michigan's got the worst economy in the country. Our foreclosure rate is huge. How can you expect people to buy hockey tickets when they can't afford to pay for their houses? Those that do have money have it stretched thinner. The Pistons are good, the Tigers are good. The Lions aren't mathematically eliminated yet. The Wings have more competition in the sports marketplace. If you're a borderline fan, split between the Pistons and the Red Wings, why wouldn't you pick the cheaper alternative?

The ticket prices are far from the worst but they're not good, either. Yeah, you can get tickets for $22 or even $9 if you go to the box office but the $44+ tickets are the vast majority of seats. And the exhibition prices are the same as regular season. Last week I took my dad to the Wings-Leafs exhibition, seats were at center ice but were the last row in the arena, right in front of the press box. Total cost, $100 (Ticketmaster charge included, but not parking).

That kind of thing p*sses the fans off. The Wings came back from the lockout and their big thing was "Look, we're not raising ticket prices!" Aside from the $9 seats that I can't get because I live in Lansing and it's not so easy to just hop down to the JLA box office, they haven't lowered ticket prices (even just to raise them again) since the lockout. It's like they didn't even try to make it up to fans.

And some of the more embedded (or embittered) bloggers will also point out that the Wings' organization is extremely media-unfriendly. The beat writers basically have to spew what the team tells them.

Their website is awful. Their only official fan communication is through a $40/year subscription site that they don't even take the time to update (I paid my $40 twice and then figured out how to hack their forums, so I feel better that they're not getting my money for that sh*t anymore). The players aren't accessible to fans (unless you pay $500 to enter the Hockeytown Hold'em poker tournament that just happens to be at the casino owned by the Ilitch family).

The Joe, as much as I love it, is a dirt pit. It is an awful, awful arena. I love that there aren't any stupid distractions to make it seem like you're at a carnival rather than a hockey game but even I have to draw the line somewhere. I've been to Columbus, I've seen what a fantastic arena they built there, and if that building was dropped down behind the Fox Theater, more people would be in it than are in the Joe now. I know it'd be a lot easier to get my wife to go to games.

Personally, almost none of this applies to me. I'm 90 minutes from the Joe. I watch the games on TV. I was on the season ticket waiting list and my number came up last year. I passed because I can't spend that kind of money to race to get to Detroit in time for a 7:30 faceoff against Columbus or St. Louis on a weeknight. I'll buy a few single-game tickets throughout the season (my first set are next Friday against the Blackhawks).

The Wings don't sell to the rest of the state. They've got a farm team in Grand Rapids and they don't do any kind of promotions there. They're in the same state as the NCAA's defending National Champions, a team that won the tournament on a clutch goal by a Red Wings prospect who also happens to be from in-state, and there's no cross-promotion except for when they try to bring in Wings fans to watch "College Hockey at the Joe." Here in Lansing, what few hockey fans there are are MSU fans first and maybe Red Wings fans after that. The Wings have managed to get into a position where they're competing with the college teams when they should be working with them. To a certain extent there will always be competition (you can't schedule it so that the Wings are off every night that MSU or U-M or Western or Northern or Tech or the Griffins are playing) but they could at least work together to build fans across the state.

The thing that I haven't seen mentioned a lot is that a lot of the supposed fanbase the Wings built in the 90s were bandwagon fans anyway. You stop winning and of course those people are going to go away. Detroit wasn't selling out in the early 90s when they were a good team but kept losing in the first round, why would it be any different now? Especially with all of the other things taken into consideration.

That's my essay on the matter. It's gotten a lot of publicity lately. This summer some of the southern fans were asking why they should feel bad about Detroit's problems. I'm not asking anyone to feel bad. I'm not asking anyone who's not a Wings fan to care. I fully admit that the Wings are in a bit of trouble, this is why I think that's the case.

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User Comments

I really doubt it is the end. 10 cups in the history of the franchise? Come on now, this is a legacy!

Posted by SYfanSD on 10/6/2007 at 7:20 PM



Those people are stupid.

Detroit is a legacy, I doubt they are losing things. The only reason people won't buy tickets is because it's so d@mn expensive. D= It's sad, I know.

Posted by Mathieu_Datsyuk132351 on 10/6/2007 at 9:42 PM


I agree the tickets are expensive, not nearly as bad the Ducks or Kings...

Posted by SYfanSD on 10/6/2007 at 9:58 PM


Don't take my belief that "Hockeytown" is done to mean that I think the Red Wings are going anywhere. They're not. I just think it's time for the Red Wings to give up their ill-gotten title.

Like most things in life, hockey fandom goes in cycles. Giving yourself a cocky name like that just leaves you open for criticism when you can't live up to it, and that time is coming now for Detroit.

Posted by YzerFan19 on 10/6/2007 at 11:31 PM


Hopefully this cycle is almost over then?

I like the Hey, Hey, Hockeytown song way too much to get rid of it. <img src="http://forums.detroithockey.net/public/style_emoticons/default/rock.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":therock:" border="0" alt="rock.gif" /> Plus I got my non-hockey friends to listen to it.


Posted by Mathieu_Datsyuk132351 on 10/7/2007 at 10:59 PM


I don't think we really have to worry about it

Posted by SYfanSD on 10/8/2007 at 9:14 AM


I don't think we really have to worry about it

I hope you are right!!!But I doubt anything will happen to have the craze end. <img src="http://forums.detroithockey.net/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.png" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":D" border="0" alt="biggrin.png" />

Posted by Mathieu_Datsyuk132351 on 10/8/2007 at 5:17 PM


I agree with the article by YzerFan19, and would like to thank him for the article. It's good to see someone write about the Wings before they won the cups in the 90s. I have been a Wings fan my whole life, and used to watch them when they were the worst in the NHL.

So when the HockeyTown title came up. I could see that this was just some marketing hype, and though it was very arrogant to call ourselves HockeyTown, when the game is still dominated by Canada, and Canadian cities. However, as YzerFan19 writes, we won the cup that year, and have been good enough to not be too ridiculed by the name.

But the HockeyTown marketing hype has led the country, and probably ourselves, to think that everyone here loves the Red Wings. Which in reality, just isn't the case. Unfortunately, the Wings have been successful for so long, that many of the bandwagon fans, are starting to take the Wings success for granted (like fans in New York do with the Yankees) and are now disappearing. Especially since the Pistons and Tigers have been so successful at the same time.

Unfortunately, at the same time interest is starting to wane with fringe fans, it appears that Ilitch has also lost interest in the Wings. I am not sure if it is because he has been focusing on the Tigers, or if he is saving his money for a new Wings stadium. But it just doesn't feel like the Wings are getting the attention they need. It is as if the Wings are so good, that they can stand on their own, without investing any money to help market or sell them. Basically, it appears to me that Ilitch is being as cheap as he possibly can.

For evidence of this, as YzerFan19 points out, you first need to look at the stadium they are in. It is a dump. It was never meant to be a great stadium, and in fact was built as quickly as possible, so the Wings wouldn't move out of Detroit. I don't necessarily like the new "Southern" stadiums, with all the marketing they have, but I would still rather attend a game there, instead of going to the Joe.

Therfore, I think if Ilitch either doesn't lower ticket prices or build a new stadium soon, the Wings will continue where they are at. I think the fans can feel that Ilitch is being cheap. He is still charging the very high ticket prices, even though the new CBA is in place. But you what do you get for them? Compared to the Palace or Comerica Park, you get a very low level experience. The fans will still continue to stop coming to the games until Ilitch steps up. It would be nice to blame all the attendance issues on the economy, but the fact is there are other issues going on, that won't be fixed even if the Big Three rebounds.

I would like to point out that my opinion of Ilitch being cheap. Is based on being a season ticket holder last year, and attending about 95% of all the games (including preseason and playoffs). Some of the things that I saw that made me feel bad about attending Wings games are as follows:

1. Walking to the Joe - About a month into the season, one section of lights blew out in one of the tunnels that you walk in to get to the Joe. It was never fixed. It got very dark in the tunnel, and coming to games late, or leaving late, could make you very vulnerable to crime.

2. T-Shirt giveaway between periods - The Wings would shoot out t-shirts in between periods to fans. I believe these cheap shirts must have cost Ilitch a few dollars a piece. However, you would think they were Yzerman jerseys based on the amount they threw out. In fact, during the later rounds of the playoffs, where people are paying hundreds of dollars per ticket, they stopped the t-shirt giveaways entirely.

3. Commercials - How many times did you see the Draper "Red shows rage" commerical during the playoffs. Couldn't we get a different commercial? This was killing me. Also, what happened to the quality of the Little Caesars commericals? I think Ilitch doesn't care about Little Caesars either.

4. Entertainment at other stadiums - Having gone to a Wings game in Nashville. I can say that they are a lot better at getting the crowd involved in the game. They do this with things on the scoreboard, better music in my opinion, and cool things. Like having songs where you put in the opposing players name while you are saying them. They had a song where they ripped on Chelios all night. I know that they have to do this, because their fan base isn't very strong. But for the reasons I have mentioned above, the Wings fans could use some of this attention to justify spending a ton of money on tickets.

Lastly, I want to point out that I love the Red Wings, and probably always will. I was very pleasantly surprised by the Wings success last year, and have high hopes for them this year. I just think it is a shame that the fans are not supporting them, and wanted to give my reasons why I feel fan support is down.

p.s. On a side note, I am very happy to see Lang go. Even though he appeared to play ok in Chicago, and helped them win. I don't think it will last. I think if we didn't have Lang last year, we would have won the cup.

Posted by Datsyuk Rules on 10/11/2007 at 1:39 PM


<img src="http://forums.detroithockey.net/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/suspect.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":suspect:" border="0" alt="suspect.gif" /> Quite a first post. <img src="http://forums.detroithockey.net/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.png" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.png" />Obviously, I agree with a lot of what you say, but there is one thing I'd like to nit-pick...

4. Entertainment at other stadiums - Having gone to a Wings game in Nashville. I can say that they are a lot better at getting the crowd involved in the game. They do this with things on the scoreboard, better music in my opinion, and cool things. Like having songs where you put in the opposing players name while you are saying them. They had a song where they ripped on Chelios all night. I know that they have to do this, because their fan base isn't very strong. But for the reasons I have mentioned above, the Wings fans could use some of this attention to justify spending a ton of money on tickets.

I mentioned above that I don't like hockey games to be played off as carnivals. I don't need "hip" music to get excited about a game. That said, some people do. The key is finding a balance. I will walk out of the arena if I ever hear a Detroit announcer say "Red Wings... On... The... POWER PLAY!" Budd Lynch may not be able to pronouce half of the players' names but he plays the role of announcer very well, he's not a cheerleader.Additionally, I don't like it when teams prompt their fans to mock the other team. I'm a big fan of rooting for your team, not against the other team, so having a song that rips on Chelios seems like lazy work by the Nashville people.In Columbus a couple years ago they had a scoreboard video they played when a Red Wing went to the penalty box. They showed live video of the player skating to the box and then when he got in, cut to pre-recorded footage of a guy in Wings gear taking off his helmet and revealing that he was an old man. Yeah, easy joke to make (which is probably why I don't mind it so much), but funny and you could see they put some effort into it.

Posted by YzerFan19 on 10/11/2007 at 2:13 PM


Guess, I'll throw my two cents in here on this thread. I've never read such a crazy bunch of Malarkey and bull crap, as I have on these posts about, "The End of Hockeytown" and something of the sort. If its just a marketing slogan, then what's the beef? Whether Detroit is HOCKEYTOWN, or not, the fact still remains that the Detroit Red Wing's, the players and the franchise is one of the oldest, and continuous, and arguably one of the most successful, in the league; AND, more importantly, Detroit, and in a broader sense, Michigan, which encompasses all of the towns and cities with amateur hockey leagues, that include the kids, young adults, and even some wannabe Adults, who've had a LONG-STANDING love affair, or some other type of connection with the sport of hockey in general, and with the NHL, particularly the Original Six, which the Wings are a PROUD and DISTINGUISHED member, Hockeytown is an apt description. I don't care what the downside may be, as suggested by a few people on here, and what is being spread around by some other wannabe Champion and Winning team forums around this internet.

End of Subject as far as I'm concerned! <img src="http://forums.detroithockey.net/public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.png" /> <img src="http://forums.detroithockey.net/public/style_emoticons/default/suspect.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":suspect:" border="0" alt="suspect.gif" />

Posted by skyguy52 on 10/12/2007 at 12:25 AM


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