Panthers GM Dale Tallon told ESPN’s Craig Custance something interesting the other day.
When asked if the NBA lockout meant more media attention for the NHL in South Florida, Tallon replied, “We’re getting a lot of coverage. Ever since July 1, we’re getting a lot more. Fans there are excited about what’s going on. We’re getting a little more [attention] but it’s more to do with what we’re doing [than a lockout].”
Obviously Tallon isn’t about to say they’re only getting more coverage because there’s no Heat news to report on. And in fairness, the Panthers did have a newsworthy offseason. Plus they’re off to a good start.
But let’s be real here – the NBA lockout hasn’t hurt. All those reporters who used to spend all day listening to Chris Bosh cry have to do something.
If there’s no basketball this year – and that’s looking like a distinct possibility – teams like the Panthers, Coyotes, Avalanche, Devils, Stars and Ducks need to cash in on it. All those teams play in NBA markets, and all could use a boost in attendance.
Trust me, sports fans in those cities will want a team to cheer for, especially once football season is over.
I remember what happened in Vancouver during the 2004-05 NHL lockout. With no Canucks, all of a sudden everyone was following the BC Lions (CFL). The Lions hadn’t been relevant in Vancouver since the 80s when Pamela Anderson was going to games and looked like this:
It wasn’t a one-year phenomenon either. Lions attendance jumped 20 percent from 2004 to 2005. People liked the product. They paid for more.
Granted, there were other factors at play. The Lions were a good team and management had improved. But the NHL lockout gave them a bump without a doubt, particularly when it came to media coverage.
Listen, I’m not saying every basketball fan is going to start watching hockey. If I had to guess, I’d say there’s more crossover between hockey and football fans in Vancouver than there is between hockey and basketball fans in the United States. However, you can’t underestimate the desire of sports fans to cheer for a team, even if it’s not their number-one sport.