Dear Mr. Lemieux,
What’s up M-Dog? You probably remember me from trick-or-treating at your place in the blue-collar town of Sewickley about a decade ago – I was Kenneth Starr and my friend was Bill Clinton, and your wife gave us bags of skittles. Two old friends like us don’t need to waste time making small talk, so I’ll get straight to the point. I’ve been thinking about the new arena you’re going to build right across from the Igloo, the one that’s due to host the Penguins starting in 2010.
You know what I think? I think you’ve got a great opportunity to be a leader in the NHL. Sure, you may have already been a leader in terms of being an awesome player, a Stanley Cup winner, the savior of the Penguins, and all of that stuff. But the opportunity you have now is better than all that combined. The opportunity you have now is to help grow the game in the United States even more than you grew it as “Le Magnifique” back in the day.
So, Mr. Lemieux, here’s what I’m suggesting. When you build the new rink, you’re going to put a section called “The Igloo” up in the nosebleeds. Not many seats – a hundred, a hundred and fifty maybe. This section is going to be staked out by dedicated Pens fans, not the ones that yell “Shoooooot!” when Ryan Malone’s crossing centre ice. The section will be inhabited by knowledgeable and energetic Pens fans, fans who will get seasons tickets to The Igloo section at a great discount, but will have to go through a much-publicized screening/audition process to get them.
|Leaf fans are more the strong silent type|
Best case scenario, the Igloo section is going to revolutionize home-ice advantage in the NHL. You’ll let Igloo members store noisemakers and signs at the arena (a la Toronto FC). You’ll encourage Igloo members to come up with (family friendly) chants and cheers in order to both intimidate the opposition and liven up the game experience for the rest of the Penguins fans at the game. Things like yelling “shoot” on opposition power plays, or chanting a goalie or player’s name, or simply starting “let’s go Pens” chants. My favorite idea is chanting “where’s [insert name here]” if a team’s star player isn’t having much of an impact. Imagine “where’s Ovechkin” ringing out during a commercial break during a playoff series with the Caps. You think that won’t get under Alex the Great’s skin? That, Mr. Lemieux, is a home ice advantage that no other NHL team will be able to claim.
Basically, my plan is this: create a special section in the nosebleeds of the new arena, and make sure the fans that inhabit it are dedicated, energetic, and family-friendly (no bullshit chants). The fans should be given special privileges, like arena storage for signs and noisemakers (noisemakers that are within NHL rules, of course). For the energy of this section to spread to the entire Penguins crowd, maybe the team should put a special student rush (a program the Pens have where they sell college kids $20 tickets) section beside the special seats.
The Penguins are set for the next twenty years. With Sidney “Bing” Crosby, Geno Malkin, Kris Letang, Jordan Staal, and the great Marc-Andre Fleury in the mix, the Pens aren’t going to be dropping off any time soon. There’s a season tickets waiting list in Pittsburgh, and sellouts are more common than Sergei Gonchar power play points. So why not take a risk on something like this? Give the Igloo section a tryout in the 2010 preseason – if the fans don’t take to it, scrap it for the regular season. The Igloo fans still have their discounted season tickets, and the Pens still have five thousand straight sellouts in the future.
I’m not trying to revolutionize a fan’s experience at a Pens game, nor am I trying to gradually turn hockey into North America’s version of soccer, complete with fans singing and lighting flares throughout a game. I’m just trying to give the Pens a home ice advantage (huge for the playoffs) and make games a little more fun. Maybe this idea works, maybe it doesn’t. But the bottom line, Mr. Lemieux, is that if you try this idea, you’ll only win or not win, you won’t lose. And you know a thing about not losing, don’t you?
P.S – I heard you’re in the best shape of your life. Just sayin…
This article, obviously, has been submitted by Stuart A. Wilkinson, Esq.