Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson – www.okchockeyphotos.com
I’ve yammered on and on about how a healthy infusion of fan interaction by the Barons players, coaches, and personnel could be a shot in the arm to the organization on a two-fold front.
First, I’ve always believed that humanizing the players we all watch on the ice genuinely connects fans with players. We begin to empathize with their bad nights, and cherish the strong ones. Instead of just a jersey number, a helmet, and a stick, they become real people who have an investment in a job that we all watch closely. In the NBA they don’t struggle with this issue, but in hockey, the shielded face keeps us from seeing a majority of emotional responses. In Oklahoma, where the fan base is still building, the more real or personal the players become the more invested they’ll be.
Second, to just assume fans will buy tickets in a non traditional hockey market because they can, is asinine. “If you build it they will come” does not apply here. A healthy dose of coddling can do wonders. People are generally cautious when it comes to spending their hard earned dollars, thus it is key to give each person a well thought out, specific reason for spending their money. Motivating them to interact at different venues and events is a nice place to start, especially if it’s free.
The Barons organization has accomplished both of these points in a little under a week. So much so that most will forget the 7-0 defeat they suffered on Sunday.
It began with a weekly radio show that was reminiscent of the old “Strictly Hockey, Blazers Style” that was an integral part to the CHL Blazers community involvement. The event, now taking place weekly at a local Buffalo Wild Wings, is broadcast on AM1340 locally and via iheartradio.com online. The mood is light, friendly, but very fan focused. Hosted by Jim Byers, voice of the Barons, and featuring coaches and players reactions to recent games and events. A social media angle was added. Simply tweet #AskTheBarons and Byers might mention your question on air.
The first ever Barons Open House was held later in the week at an RSVP type event. Fans were wined and dined (literally) in the Blue Line Club, and then later indulged in a special practice session of half-ice proportions. The intent was to bring awareness to the corporate world and community business leaders in hopes of sparking their interest in Barons hockey. The showcase of zambonis, players, personnel, and facilities was on display. Mingling with the fans were a handful of the more outgoing Barons which further compounded a night of fan interaction.
Both events were a slam dunk, and received positive remarks from fans. However, the critical eye might have noticed a tad communication error in both events. The radio broadcast, for one, didn’t air in it’s intended time slot as the Rangers game ran long and nudged the lesser hockey talk. Perhaps a recorded podcast or direct feed from www.okcbarons.com might have been a better situation. And the Open House was painted as a business/corporate event that required RSVP, to which I indeed responded. However, many were unaware of this pre-arrangement, and although none were turned away, it lacked the proper and clear communication. Likewise, a full blown, month long determination to really open-the-house might have increased traffic and spurred forth a better opening weekend ticket draw.
In all, the week’s activities leading up to our home opening weekend this Saturday and Sunday were fine tributes to an organization stepping forward into a new season. I may be quick to criticize, but will certainly be quick to compliment. And for the second week of the month of October, the Barons get two stick taps.