I lived in Dallas for a Summer in 1986. There was, basically, no place for me to strap on the skates. Oh, there was a sheet of ice in the Galleria and, I think, one other rink. But, for a hockey player, there wasn’t much.
Now, there are several Dr. Pepper Star Center’s throughout the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Now, someone in Dallas will know this better than I, but I believe the Stars either built these rinks or took them over and began operating them.
Why is this significant? Well, anyone can throw around generalities like “Kansas City isn’t a hockey town” or “Kansas City can’t support an NHL team”. Well, perhaps.
NHL franchises have been the catalyst for hockey to grow in places like LA and Dallas.
Whether Kansas City could, or could not, be a “hockey town” would be 100% on the shoulders of an NHL team, if one were to come here. If a team came to Kansas City and just went through the motions — ticket gimmicks, radio promotions, social media presence, blah, blah, blah — well, then Kansas City would be the Phoenix Coyotes Part Deux.
But, if a Kansas City NHL franchise followed the model of the Dallas Stars, then they would have no problem being successful and making Kansas City a hockey town. It wouldn’t be about first year attendance. It wouldn’t be about how many wins the franchise had in it’s first few years.
It’s about growing the game from a grass roots level. (a fact lost on those who have promoted NHL hockey in KC in the past). You can’t start the 110 meter hurdles at the last hurdle — jump right to the NHL. The game needs to be built from the ground level and that means SHEETS OF ICE!.
The team in KC would need to build a rink — or two. The team would need to have a rink management division under the team’s umbrella. The team would need to be the force to unify the Kansas City area rinks (a task that is far, far overdue). Perhaps the team would even sponsor the local high school or youth league.
The team would need to understand what local rinks have never understood — the way to grow hockey (and figure skating) is to “grow the category” not enter into petty conflicts with each other. It’s a strategy that Hallmark Cards has used for YEARS. GROW THE CATEGORY!. Hallmark’s strategy is to get more people to buy greeting cards. If consumers buy more greeting cards and Hallmark provides a great product, then they’ll garner a larger share of wallet.
So, as we reach the eve of the NHL game in Kansas City remember a couple of things.
1.) It’s great that the Stars are in KC. They are the model to follow. If there were an NHL team in Kansas City, it’s success would be based SOLELY on how well the franchise is run. Not whether or not Kansas City fans like hockey or whether Kansas City fans tend to be front-runners and only support a winner.
2.) Attendance at this game really doesn’t matter much. It’ll make for a great atmosphere, but history tells us the attendance doesn’t really matter. Fans in Nashville, Columbus, Dallas, Raleigh weren’t exactly busting down the doors before the NHL expanded or moved to those markets.