Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, January 24, 2021

The Washington Capitals joined the National Hockey League in 1974. And now, only 35 years later, DC is coming around to hockey, with sellouts and sports-talk chatter to prove it.

And they have star power to thank for it, in the guise of Alex Ovechkin. A Stanley Cup or two would help things along, too:

[Mario] Lemieux’s term — “hockey town” — is frequently used to describe the old-school burgs that made up the NHL’s “Original Six,” from Detroit to Boston, New York to Chicago, Montreal to Toronto. It has, in the last 30 years, applied to places such as Philadelphia and even Dallas. Those are places [Capitals owner Ted] Leonsis has spent time studying.

“There are cities that you say, ‘Well, how did they become hockey towns and do so great?’ ” Leonsis said. “They won championships. That’s the answer. That’s why, to me, everything else is noise.”

Nothing succeeds like winning. There are other avenues to success, of course. Leonsis himself had high hopes when he first bought the team back at the turn of the century. Drawing from his background with AOL, he had visions of building an online-driven, superstation-like fanbase for the Caps, similar to what the Atlanta Braves achieved in the ’80s and ’90s via the pre-Time Warner TBS. That never took off, so back to square one: Winning championships with personable players. Sound strategy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/24/2009 04:52 PM
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz
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3 Feedbacks »
  1. The SuperStations in Chicago (WGN) and Atlanta (TBS) were brilliant for the Cubs and Braves. Other than my local baseball team, I watched those two teams much more closely than any others and became fans.

    Comment by trumwill — 01/27/2009 @ 2:03 PM

  2. Yeah, that’s the idea: Exposure leads to a bigger fanbase, with out-of-towners “adopting” the team. Leonsis had that idea with the Web (really AOL’s then-huge user base) and the Caps. At this point, other things like fantasy sports are a better tool for achieving something like that.

    It also addresses what’s considered an overload of tribalism among NHL fans, i.e. that they mostly don’t care about any team other they their own, to the point where national showcase games like the playoffs fall short of viewers. I don’t know that the NHL is any more afflicted by this than the other Big Four sports…

    Comment by CT — 01/27/2009 @ 2:34 PM

  3. To step on one of my hobby-horse soapboxes, I think that is one of the reasons that college football is not anxious to move to a playoff system despite the money to be made in a series of games rather than bowls. In the current regime, fans of Florida have to care what happens in a USC-Oregon game because it has a direct effect on whether or not they will have a shot at the national championship. In the NFL, there is usually one division that fans of a particular team need concern themselves with. The rest takes care of itself in the post-season.

    Comment by trumwill — 01/27/2009 @ 5:28 PM

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