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Enhancing the Fan Experience: Supporters Clubs and Sections

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One thing that seems to be missing from the NHL and from the majority of fan bases in most American sports is that rabid in arena fan support that other international sports seem to have. Sure, arenas can get loud at times, but overall fans are content to sit in their seats and not do much. For a game like baseball I can understand that. Wait forever between pitches, a few seconds of action and then you breakdown the next statistic filled situation. Same for football in that you wait 40 seconds or more and then get a few seconds of action then wait again as the 350 pound linemen pick themselves up to start all over again or get themselves off the field. They're slow, plodding games. Sure they're popular, and there are plenty of fans for those sports. However the same sit in your seat attitude that works in those sports shouldn't work in the NHL.

The sport that's easiest to draw a parallel with though is the other kind of football or, soccer. Sure, most NHL players don't go diving all over the place and "writhe" in pain until they realize there won't be a penalty called. What I think is similar is the pace of the action and the sudden nature of breakaways and quick scoring. That consistant action makes for a sport that should have people cheering and yelling all night rather than hardly even paying attention. How can the NHL or individual teams get this started? By creating Supporters Clubs and Sections.

Right about this point is when I'd expect someone to pipe up and say "Well there's the Booster Club and that's the same thing!" That statement would be followed by me slapping you. Because they aren't even remotely the same. That's not to rag on the BC, but what I'm talking about is a totally different thing. Booster Clubs are great in that they do some charity work, have a barbeque now and then and help the team's Charity. That's super Outside of that though it's fairly invisible. There are plenty of teams that have them and almost none of the fans know about them. Now this isn't a rant against such organizations, just saying that that's not what I'm talking about.

Supporters Clubs are more like a cross between a booster club and a biker gang, but civilized (for the most part). Think of something like those crazy guys that support the Oakland Raiders, but organized. In soccer the Supporters clubs typically get their own sections and the tickets are all standing room only. Why? Because you never end up in the seat you were assigned anyways. They actually encourage you to stand and chant and cheer and be generally obnoxious and you're sat with those like you. Now often these folks can be a rowdy bunch so they also throw a few extra security guards their way. It's more fun for those people that want to be loud and they don't obstruct the view of those people that want to sit and enjoy the game.

Sure, this would work better if the building were a little more full, but it would work for now too. If the fans aren't quite ready to fill the building yet then why don't we concentrate all the craziest of the Coyotes fans into a section give them flags and scarves and anything that would be annoying (but also legal in an NHL arena) and have at it? What teams with smaller fanbases lack in numbers they can make up for in ferocity. Though this needn't only be for smaller market teams. What about say the Toronto Maple Leafs? Right now their lower bowl in purchased by companies to give tickets away to clients and employees etc that could care less about the games themselves. The other Leaf fans even complain about it because it looks horrible on TV when the fans are at the bar after the first period. Real fans of the team can hardly get tickets much less ones in the lower bowl. Well if there were a supporters section there would always be at least one chunk that was full down there.

I think it makes great sense. Rabid fans get to be as crazy as they want. The craziness is concentrated so that it looks good and sounds even better hopefully. The craziness is segregated from those that want to just sit and enjoy the game. I think this is a great idea that's long past due in the NHL.