Will Caps rub off on Richmond?
Move over Detroit. Richmond is now Hockeytown, USA. OK. Just kidding.
Yet, how incredibly eyepopping was it to see the RVA among the top 10 markets in television for the Stanley Cup Final, topping out at fourth overall with an 11.4 rating?
Only Washington D.C.,
Las Vegas and Baltimore ranked higher across the country.
“It’s shocking to say the least,” said NHL on NBC host Liam Mc Hugh. “You think you are looking at the wrong sheet of paper or the wrong event. But it’s so great to see all these markets around
D.C. be ‘all in,’ and why not? It’s such an incredible story of a market and a team that’s waited so long and has such a history.”
History occurred Thursday night when the Capitals finished off the Vegas Golden Knights in five games to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The following morning, my radio show was flooded with calls of stories of where people watched or how they woke up their child out of a sound sleep so they could share the moment. One sent a video from their allnight road trip to party in the streets of D.C. Many shared the stories of just how long they’ve waited for this to happen.
There was then one caller who asked after sharing his happiness: Doesn’t this excitement, along with TV ratings, show Richmond could support another hockey team?
It’s been since 2009 that there was a faceoff at the Coliseum for a Richmond Renegades game. Prior to that there were the Robins and Riverdogs.
Would Richmond support hockey?
Let me urge caution. It’s easy to be a creature of the moment.
Joyous soccer fans once told me after the U.S. tied England in the 2010 World Cup that this would change how Americans look at the sport and someday would pass the NFL in popularity in the states.
Eight years later, the
U.S. didn’t qualify for the World Cup and “Sunday Night Football” is the highest-rated television show seven years running.
To answer the question, yes, Richmond could support hockey — if done right.
First and foremost, a new arena is needed.
“If the Flying Squirrels can play in The Diamond then a hockey team…” Don’t even bother finishing the sentence with “The Coliseum.”
In this age where every stadium has to be bigger and flashier, it’s impressive and a testament to the Squirrels that they can still pull an average of 6,000 fans a night into a building that’s a concrete slab with no Jumbotron, L.E.D. boards or flashy bells and whistles.
The problem when it comes to talking about a new arena or ballpark, it’s way easier for people like me without the money to talk about it.
This also isn’t just an
“if you build it, they will come” situation.
Arguably hockey is the greatest sport to see live. The sights, sounds, and speed aren’t done justice on television.
Yet, the sport can’t be the lone attraction.
Take the Flying Squirrels philosophy: They want good baseball for the diehard fan, but they also want great entertainment for the fan’s spouse, who may not be a baseball fan. They want him or her to have a laugh at the onfield promotion or contests while looking at their child’s smile because of Nutzy and Nutasha.
There’s also having a great marketing campaign with merchandise that people will wear. You want a town being proud of their team. Whether it be a grocery run to Kroger or shopping at Short Pump, you’d be pressed not to run into at least one person in Squirrels apparel.
It’s imperative for minor league sports or nontelevised teams that their offfield product helps sell as many tickets, if not more, than what happens on the field.
Finally, while the Squirrels won’t be made or broke by MLB affiliation, it would be a huge asset for a Richmond hockey team to have a Capitals affiliation. Washington has been the Hershey Bears’ parent club (AAA) since 2005 in the AHL and on and off again with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL (AA) since 2004.
There are enough people who’ll attend a Squirrels game just for baseball along with Nationals, Phillies, and Orioles fans who will attend to see the future stars of their organization.
Hockey is a less popular sport that’s affected by geographical proximity — having the San Jose Sharks’ AHL team wouldn’t be as well-received as having the San Francisco Giants’ farm club in town. There just aren’t as many general hockey fans in central Virginia, and as shown by the Richmond ratings, a connection to the Caps would be an asset.
Could Richmond support hockey again someday?
In short, yes. But there’s a lot more than just bringing in just any team and dropping a puck. Wes McElroy hosts a daily sports talk show weekdays on 910 AM from 6-9 a.m.
Minor league hockey has had a mixed history in Richmond, but one high point was the Renegades’ 1995 Riley Cup for the ECHL title. Could the Capitals’ crown spark another hockey franchise bid for Richmond?