This comes from John Beatty, a writer at Litter Box Cats. Try to guess the market he's talking about here.
My brother and I went to a hockey game a few years ago. The team in question was having some problems that year, both on the ice and off. The team had played in the Stanley Cup Finals a few years earlier, but lost the series. Now, there were issues with team ownership, and that combined with a couple years of losses were hurting attendance. My brother was a fan of the visiting team and was wearing their sweater. I, as was my custom at the time, wearing the same Flyers sweater that I wore to every hockey game I attended, no matter who was playing.
Continued after the jump.
We arrived at the game to see a lot of cars that were obviously from out of town. The arena, while not empty, had a lot of pockets of empty seats and the visiting team's fans seemed to outnumber the fans of the home team. The visiting fans were enjoying discounted tickets to the game. Whenever the visiting team made a great play or scored a goal, the crowd erupted in cheers. The home team scored the first goal, but by the end of the first period, the visitors were up 2-1. There wouldn't be any more scoring until midway through the third, when the visitors erupted for five goals, eventually winning the game 7-2. The visiting fans left triumphant while the few home fans left unhappy.
John's talking about Buffalo, New York in 2003. Sounds a whole lot like it could be South Florida in 2007 or 2008 or 2009 or.... well, you get the point. It's part of a larger point that LBC, our Florida Panthers blog, is trying to portray here.
Troubles happen all over the place in the hockey world. There are only a handful of markets -- Toronto, Montreal, Philadelphia, New York -- that can survive any sort of serious downturn in on-ice play without a severe attendance drop. From Buffalo to Pittsburgh to Washington to Boston to Sunrise to Chicago in the last decade, fans have stopped showing up when their teams were bad.
But that doesn't stop Northerners from disparaging South Florida (and all the other Sun Belt hockey markets) as places where hockey can never and will never succeed. There were times in the last 10 years where Florida had better attendance than Boston or Pittsburgh or New Jersey or Chicago.
When the team plays like crap, no matter where that team calls home, fans stop showing up. The on-ice product in Sunrise, Florida isn't terrible these days, but it's not exactly good either. There's certainly no promise of a Stanley Cup any time soon.
Maybe low attendance and scores of empty seats at BankAtlantic Center has nothing to do with the fact that it gets warm outside there. Maybe people just don't want to watch a crappy team. Seems like a pretty universal quality.