Whitney Was Right

This week Paul Balm agrees that children are our future, but wishes they would sit still!

I agree with Whitney Houston – children are the future. Without them the world would be in trouble and so would a lot of ice hockey teams. How many people reading this attended their first game as a child? I know I was, I started supporting the Panthers as an 11 year old back in 1980 (you do the maths) and my two sons and a lot of people I know are in a similar position so attracting children to games should be a pretty important marketing strategy for any team.

There are two reasons for that:
1) They are more impressionable than us cynical adults so if you catch them at that age then you could end up with a fan for life.
2) They have to bring an adult with them. And that, I think is where the problems lie.
Before I go off on my weekly rant there’s two things that I hope you will keep in mind. I’m not blaming kids at any point during this. Kids are kids and I’ve seen enough games to bore me rigid so I can understand why they become restless and my comments are based on experience, I’ve got two sons who have been to a lot of games so I know the problems and I’ve dealt with them (you’ll have to ask the two of them how successfully I managed it though).

There a few sights I don’t like to see at the NIC, a block full of orange, the halitosis kid or someone other than Ken or Stef with a microphone in their hand. But none of those is the worst. That particular accolade, for want of a better word, has to go to the person who walks slowly up the stairs at the side of your block with a pint in one hand a ticket (usually printed on a sheet of A4) and a vacant expression on their face. They look at your block, then the one next to it and then almost seem to pick one at random before heading to a seat. Keep watching them and you’ll invariably see them being re-directed to a different block. Sometimes they’re on their own, sometimes groups of two or three but the majority of time they’re like the Pied Piper leading a group of children behind them each sucking on a recently bought beverages and holding a bit of cheap tat (sorry, merchandise).
If they’re heading your way you know you’re in for a long night or, like yesterday, afternoon. I have no real idea why they come. They don’t seem all that bothered about the game – I watched a couple casually get up and walk out in the middle of the penalty shoot out on Saturday night, getting up (thankfully between shots) bidding their friends farewell and sauntering towards the exit. OK, maybe their parking was about to run out but couldn’t they have hung about until the end and the made a run for it? Were they so disinterested that they didn’t want to see how it ended? It’s like getting up and walking out with five minutes left in a film.
It feels at times like they’re more interested in the concessions, which means that they’re up and down all night. Remember those kids you just watched walk in with the vacant pint carrying adult? Well, if they’re on your row you’ll be seeing them all night. Now I know kids have smaller bladders than adults so, parents, he’s a tip: stop giving them so much to drink! It isn’t rocket science. I’m not saying don’t give them anything but try and use a bit of thought, is that too much to ask?
So what’s the answer?

I’m sorry but I don’t know. Teams should be always be trying to increase the size of their fanbase and if they aren’t I’d like to know why, but something has to be done and, you won’t be surprised to know, I’ve got a few ideas:

1) Better stewarding – I’m sorry but someone is letting people come up the stairs while play is in progress.
2) Adult only blocks – that sounds a bit draconian and there’d be problems policing it but I’m sure there are plenty it would appeal to. I must admit I’m curious as to whether those who sit in the Gold blocks at the NIC where there are no discounts suffer the same plagues of disinterested adults and kids? I’m guessing not.
3) The NIC could offer a crèche for the period of the game or a concert. There are rooms upstairs that could be used. I appreciate there are cost implications to this but they could use the toys thrown out of Ryan Finnerty or Brian Stewart’s prams. It is a costly exercise so they should charge for it.
4) Better announcements – now we all know (and we’re getting weekly reminders at the moment) that the use of a microphone is an art form but the announcements at the moment are just not working.
5) Better information sent out with tickets. Maybe the NIC should be producing a document that is sent out with all tickets with this kind of etiquette related information in it (apologies if they already are I don’t buy online very often) or checking if people buying in person have been before and issuing the guidelines to them.
Something needs to be done because increasingly the actions of new fans are having a negative impact on the enjoyment of those around them. I know, from the amount of grumbling I heard last night, that this was certainly the case in block 13. They need to appreciate that they have turned up to watch a sporting event and we haven’t turned up to watch their backside pass us half a dozen times while play is going on.

After I’ve said all that though I have to point out that despite their best efforts it didn’t stop me enjoying the games this weekend. I know I don’t normally really talk much about hockey in these columns but we witnessed two pretty decent games between two fairly evenly matched sides (although Sunday could have been very different without Chubak or Kowalski). Add to that a thoroughly enjoyable live podcast (same again on the 14th? We’re unbeaten in games were we do one beforehand) and the atmosphere the Giants fans brought both in the arena and the pub afterwards (why do they keep singing about Oreo biscuits?) and I’d say we were treated to a pretty good weekend. People were starting to dare to dream in the pub on Sunday night. Me? I’m not confident.

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