Chicago Blackhawks fans caused a major stir this week because of the ticket policy the Tampa Bay Lightning has incorporated during their 2015 playoff run. The following disclaimer comes from the Tampa Bay Lightning Ticketmaster site:
Amalie Arena is located in Tampa, FL. Sales to this event will be restricted to
residents of Florida. Residency will be based on credit card billing address.
Orders by residents outside the selected area will be canceled without notice
and refunds given.
Furthermore, for the entirety of the 2015 NHL Playoffs, the Lightning fans sitting in the Chase Club and Lexus Lounge as well as the adjoining sections, are only permitted to wear Tampa Bay Lightning apparel (or neutral). Fans wearing opposing team apparels will be asked to remove them while in these seats.
While these policies have seemed to disturb some Chicago fans, the Lightning organization is technically doing wrong, as ticket and seating policies (like this one) are left up to the individual teams rather than the National Hockey League. In fact, the Nashville Predators adopted this same strategy earlier in the playoffs in order to boost their “home-ice” advantage. This ticket policy is very quickly becoming a growing trend amongst small market NHL teams.
Time and time again we’ve seen professional teams get in trouble for enhanced crowd noise. The latest case we saw was the NFL fining the Atlanta Falcons 350k and a draft pick for playing “artificial” crowd noise throughout the 2013 season and into the 2014 season. There have been a number of other small market teams who have been investigated for enhanced crowd noise, including the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions.
So the Tampa Bay Lightning are bending their rules on ticket sales, in order to “legally” get to this concept of “increasing home field advantage”. In hockey the concept of “home-ice advantage” has traditionally been less of a true advantage comparatively to other sports like football, baseball and basketball … where crowd noise can be more easily heard and thus used as an advantage. Yet as is the case in all sports in today’s day in age, any advantage whatsoever that can be achieved will be aggressively sought.
In larger sport market cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angles, where the issue of visiting team fans’ outnumbering home team fans is never in question such policies don’t come up in discussion. However, in markets like Tampa Bay, a ticket policy like this one not only brings short term success with the crowd noise advantage, but it also incentives the surrounding Greater Tampa area to potentially become life-tie fans.
While the narcissist may argue that it’s times like these where the “bandwagoners” come out of the closest. In reality, the organization is reaching out to the local fan base and capitalizing on an opportunity to expand their fan base. Tampa Bay is the city whose baseball team’s (Tampa Bay Rays) attendance figures are traditionally 5,000 less than the next lowest MLB team’s. The football team (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) finished with the league’s worst record last year and has gone through trouble with TV blackouts. The Lightning organization saw an opportunity to capitalize on the team’s success, and the open market space, and has successfully implemented a ticket policy to encourage locals to come to the arena and potentially becomes lifetime fans. This Stanley Cup will be the first since the Lightning lifted the Cup in 2004.
It would not surprise to see this trend become more popularly implemented ticket policy, specifically during the playoff season across all major sports.