Tuesday, December 11, 2007

You Want To Know Why Hockeytown's Slipping Away?

An article on Freep.com today talks about the struggles of the Red Wings to put asses in the seats at Joe Louis Arena. In the past few years ticket sales have sunk so low that even the playoffs had available seats.

I've been thinking about this issue for a long time. I heard Nick Lindstrom on the radio a month or so ago talking about a program to get kids in the metro area back into hockey. The program neglected the main factor why the sport is failing here--division. The racial divide, the class divide and the gender divide all play pivotal roles in the decline of the sport in local history.

As a young working-class girl it was impossible for me to get into hockey even though I wanted to desperately. My struggling parents couldn't pay the associated costs (equipment that kids grow out of monthly, jerseys, team fees, ice fees, etc.). On top of it, I was a girl--and as we all know, girls don't play hockey, do they? So although part of my heart will always be true to the Wings, part of it is disenchanted with a system that didn't want my involvement anyhow.

As a new generation comes up in Hockeytown they aren't as devoted to the Red Wings as previous generations once were. The gender divide plays into this somewhat, but it's more the class and racial divide. Let's be honest--hockey is not an inner-city sport, yet the team is located downtown. For good or bad, that's going to play into it when you're talking about the most segregated city in America. Furthermore, in these tough economic times when it comes to buying your kid clothes or buying a hockey ticket, the more practical matter always comes first.

In order for Hockeytown to truly bloom again, these factors need to be addressed. The Red Wings organization should start programs to bring minorities and girls into the game at a young age. They should sponsor programs to pay for ice time, equipment, etc. And for crying out loud, lower your GD ticket prices or offer a greater value--people can't afford that even if they want to come down.

The fact of the matter is that the sport will die if it is to remain an upper-middle class, white, male sport. And that's a sad thing to lose such a brilliant history in this town. But it will continue to dwindle if we just assume that the value of a ticket is the only problem. It's the value of the experience that needs to be addressed--and fast. Otherwise, Hockeytown will rise no more.



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