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Dan Ellis' Blog: Growing the game in a small market

Dan Ellis is 7-8-1 with a 3.09 GAA and .897 SP this season. (Photo by: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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Dan Ellis is 7-8-1 with a 3.09 GAA and .897 SP this season. (Photo by: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

BY DAN ELLIS

You would think after 10 years of hockey the city of Nashville would be crazy about the sport, but that’s not necessarily the case.

I think our ownership group has done a good job emphasizing a connection to the local community to get support. Now the team just needs to continue to have success and bring more and more fans out.

The local ownership group brought out more businesses and helped not only to fill-up some of our luxury boxes, but the seats as well. They’ve tried to work out more local promotions, too, which spreads hockey knowledge around the city.

You can still walk around the city and see people who are oblivious to their city even having an NHL team. There’s still some work to do, but that just comes along with having success and moving on into the playoffs, because that’s where you feel the real hockey atmosphere and attract more fans.

That’s one of the things the guys enjoy about Nashville. You look at some of the big hockey markets like Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and all the other Canadian markets and, yes, it is incredible to play in front of those fans.

However, when you just want to be a regular person, it’s difficult. You can’t go out and have dinner with your family without bumping into someone who knows who you are, whereas here you feel secure with your family; you feel like you can go out and be yourself. You’re not noticed and you’re able to fly under the radar and live a healthy life away from the rink.

But just because we don’t have the same number of fans doesn’t mean they aren’t equally as passionate. We have a section in our rink – I think it's 303 – and they call themselves the “Cell Block.” They try to bring different jerseys, they paint their faces and make their own signs. They really help lead the charge and help give us a little bit of extra jump when it comes down to needing encouragement from our fans – they really get the motor running.

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We still need to continue growing our media exposure, however. Our media outlets do an exceptional job with what they have, but it still needs work.

We need a little more airtime on the radio and TV and to be mentioned more often in the newspaper. With a larger section in the paper, fans, or just the average person flipping through, would notice the stories and hockey.

When you only see a small section on hockey, it’s hard to take it seriously. It looks like a boxing article or a something with less importance.  However, when you print a more elaborate page, like the Toronto Star, which is like a second version of The Hockey News, then you’ve got hockey page after page.

Also, things like those poster inserts, which get people involved by collecting those types of memorabilia, are important.

I’d like to see the media do extra things to create a greater awareness.

Dan Ellis was drafted 60th overall by Dallas in 2000, but played just one NHL game before hooking on with Nashville at the start of last season. By the end of the 2007-08 campaign, Ellis had taken over as the No. 1 and started for the Preds against Detroit in the first round of the playoffs.He will be blogging for THN.com throughout the season. You can read his other entries HERE.

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