This will be a series of posts about elements of the Predators organization as it stands at the end of another year. Stay tuned for more posts about the coaches, players, fans, etc.
As i explained to a co-worker today, this is series of blog post i was hoping to put off writing for a while longer. He was talking in very positive terms about the "great fight that the Preds gave the Wings". While that is true, and it is awesome that this team even made it to the playoffs, it is still disappointing to have the year come to an end. I think many of us (the fans and players) really believed this team had more in it.
I'm not going to get to rear-view focused here. This last season was a crazy one, not to mention the off-season that proceeded it. I'm going to try to keep this about 'where we go from here'. The exception is the first section, which by its nature will necessitate looking back at all the changes that have taken place, in order to appreciate the changes left to make.
Christopher Cigarran, Thomas Cigarran, Joel and Holly Dobberpuhl, William “Boots” Del Biaggio, David Freeman, Herbert Fritch, DeWitt Thompson V, John Thompson and Warren Woo
This group has been awesome. Not just the fact that they stepped up to buy the team and keep it in town (and buy us free drinks). But the other efforts as well. Marketing has improved dramatically. Advertising still leaves a little to be desired (the billboard and TV ads look like were pasted onto a PowerPoint template) but the frequency and visibility of ads has been much better. And the over-all way the team is presented around town has been outstanding.
Most of all though, they have once again made the Predators a ticket to have in town. In the final weeks of the season, we saw Governor Phil Bredesen, Jeff Fisher, Vince Young, Rob Bironas, Eddie George, Jimmy Fallon, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Dierks Bentley, Jodee Messina, and many other celebrities have been seen at the game - on the megatron. Some of these may have been just naturally attending the game, but i can pretty much guarantee you that 'their people' were asked if it was ok to show them on screen. What's better, every single one of them (with the exception of Fisher) was wearing Predators gear. This isn't by accident. It's marketing and promotion at its finest. Vince Young and Rob Bironas even participated in on-ice intermission entertainment. Tie-ins with the Titans is brilliant. I just hope they can continue with some quid-pro-quo next year and get some Predators featured at a Titans game or two!
It hasn't stopped there. The Predators website has been great of late. Predators fans complaining about a lack of media coverage just haven't found the Predators TV section yet. The local TV stations may not be covering the team well, but they team is! Toward the end of the year the team filmed a pre-game 'show' of around five minutes each featuring highlights and back story about the teams, what has been going on, etc (see the show from game 6 here). They also usually posted the full press conference videos and player interviews done both pre- and post-game. Oh, and of course more highlights than you could shake a stick at. The only failure here has been in not getting the word out about just how awesome this section of the site has become.
Check out the 30 minute post-season press conference with GM David Poile and head Coach Barry Trotz here--
The team even started (finally) using their SMS text message service that everyone had signed up for (when they sent "PREDS" to 66937 during intermission to win tickets). I've gotten several messages in the last few weeks notifying me when game 6 tickets went on sale, and about the viewing party held for game 5, Predators Pride day, etc. I hope they continue to use this to good effect (though not enough to cross the line into spam). Best message of all was the one that thanked me for my support. This new ownership group has taken nothing for granted, thanking people and companies all over the place for their support - and it is making a difference.
Other positive call-outs: The return of major sponsors (Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Dodge, Toyota, etc, etc) bringing in extra revenue. Nice looking tickets for season ticketholders during the playoffs. Instead of a nice booklet of tickets for the regular season this year, Craig Leipold send out ticketmaster tickets for everyone. For the playoffs they returned to the nice tickets with photos of players, etc (even if they were old pictures of past players).
What i still want to see:
More HD. I know this group doesn't have total control over games appearing in HD on Fox Sports, but the fact that none of the playoff games were available in HD in Nashville is an absolute travesty. HD has a bigger impact on hockey than any other sport - actually making it watchable for casual fans (who can now actually see the puck and more of the ice).
Better ads. Both billboards and TV ad series that were run at the end of the season were well placed, and not horrible, but they didn't look big-league. They looked very amateur. Maybe it was on purpose, but i think the team would do well to appear more professional. Hopefully having the summer to put together a new plan will help.