Dan Ellis is in his second year as the starting goalie with Nashville. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
BY DAN ELLIS
Our media relations personnel has done a great job getting us involved in the community by working with schools and hospitals. As a professional athlete, especially in a small hockey market like Nashville, these are the things you have to do. You must take ownership as a player and give back to the community to help grow the sport of hockey.
We just had a community day where every single player on the team is sent out to meet with fans and people in the community. You converse with families and spend some time with kids in hospitals, schools and restaurants.
Even if you’re wearing the jersey you still get people who don’t know who you are; sometimes they think you’re a soccer or baseball player. Hockey is not as well-known as we want it to be, but it is moving forward and you have to remember that it’s a non-traditional market.
The minor hockey team is growing, but when you don’t have ice rinks in the backyard or much of them around the city, you know it’s not a traditional attraction.
You’ve got to kind of think outside the box, think of ways to get people’s attention, gain awareness and fill the seats. It’s an ongoing challenge the marketing team and the franchise face.
This year the team has come out with new commercials to try to add some funny stuff on TV and get aired on the local cable stations. They’re also trying to come up with more activities and crowd-pleasers at games.
It’s difficult to spend a ton of time in the community when you have players traveling all year, up and down. You want to have that balance of spending some time with your family. But it goes back to having that responsibility of helping the sport grow in Nashville.
This year, the team has put a lot of money towards marketing. They realize that it’s going to be a great challenge, but I think they’re meeting it head-on and they’re doing the best they can right now.
Things have improved in terms of ticket sales with more and more fans coming to games and buying a little more merchandise. Recently, the economy has had an effect, with merchandise going down a touch. The team has done a good job at making ticket prices affordable, creating packages and awarding giveaways with promotions like win a free ticket with the best Halloween costume.
Things like that are going to help this market tremendously. In other places, like Toronto, you don’t have to promote a single giveaway because people fill the stands regardless of how the team is doing. You’ve got to be creative and that’s something the team is doing much better this year.
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.