The Evansville Thunderbolts are employing an interesting strategy for their first playoff game. The team, which is 10th in the 10-team SPHL in attendance, is offering free admission to their first playoff game.
SHOUT OUT & THANK YOU to @eisforeveryoneevv!!! Thunderbolts Home Playoff Game will be FREE for Everyone! No ticket needed, gen admission. Announcing info on date, time & opponent Sun evening/ Mon morning! #feelthethunder #feeltheplayoffs #eisforeveryone #hockeyisforeveryone pic.twitter.com/iqlVGC1tuQ
— Thunderbolts Hockey (@evvthunderbolts) April 5, 2018
Heading into their last weekend, Evansville will have the sixth or seventh spot– seventh if Mississippi wins out and Evansville loses out; though Evansville can sneak up to fifth if they win out and Knoxville loses out. Of course, with the new playoff format– the Thunderbolts are pretty much sitting ducks for the top three teams in the whole Pick-Your-Poison playoff system the SPHL has.
However, the question is does this sully the SPHL if teams need to have free admission to their first playoff game?? Sure, it’s “Single A” hockey, but it’s still a business. You have to think that other teams don’t think highly of a team in the playoffs just giving away their seats to people and not turning a profit. It cuts into the team and possibly the league’s bottom line.
That said, it could also be something that creates fans in an area that needs to get back to their glory days in the ECHL by putting in– at the worst point– over 4,000 people on average with over 5,400 at it’s peak. You can believe that there are still people sour over the whole situation Ron Geary had in moving the team to Owensboro and then eventually Jacksonville when Owensboro didn’t work out.
Even if it isn’t the old Icemen fans coming back to see this new team, playoff hockey is a chance to create new fans. People also say that they became a bigger fan of the game when they attended it live and experienced the speed and excitement of the game. Now, double that when it comes to the playoffs and how that could play out and you may have new ticket holders after that experience.
It doesn’t look good on the surface, sure– but at the same time, it’s pretty ingenious. Giving away tickets to this franchise’s first playoff appearance after finishing dead last in their inaugural season in 2016-17 could be a big way to get some buzz around the team and turn people into supporters. It allows some families who may not be able to afford a playoff game a chance to experience it with their kids. It creates some kind of community togetherness, also– maybe getting the city to rally behind this team after their other one was ripped from them.
The real question is how it will actually play out and how much they’ll be able retain after the first playoff game is done. That falls on the marketing and promotion departments in a big way to help maintain it all.
Good luck, Thunderbolts– make this opportunity count.