BY MICHAEL GARDNER – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
From a fan’s perspective, the model NHL franchise may indeed be the Tampa Bay Lightning.
I have had the privilege of attending a few games in Tampa over the last few years. Each time, I walk away impressed with the level of customer focused service and sense of belonging that Lightning fans are treated to by their front office.
The first thing that you notice immediately are the number of jerseys. Leaf jerseys were plentiful of course, however, the Tampa fans didn’t shy away as virtually everyone was sporting a jersey. It makes it easier when you get that free in your season ticket package.
The one thing I didn’t notice? Suits.
The arena grounds itself is set up for service. Before and during the game a concierge style service area greets season ticket holders where they can review their ticket needs (for hockey and other events) with live staff. Stadium personnel dot the landscape answering any and all questions like whether I can take the 24oz beer that I just bought into the arena? The answer is yes.
I was amazed that season ticket holders were “swiping” their jerseys at kiosks. I found out that they were doing that because that FREE jersey that they get includes a micro-chip entitling them to 25 per cent off food and beverage and 35 per cent off merchandise.
Speaking of discounts, the Lightning have some of the lowest ticket prices in the league. Some may argue that they need to given the demand for hockey in the area. Fair point. However, it certainly makes it accessible. I took our family of five, we sat rows from the ice and it cost me half of what a pair of golds at the ACC would cost.
The food is great, though food at many Canadian rinks is pretty good too. I was just impressed with the options from the Outback Steakhouse to Smoked Brisket. There is certainly a lot of variety.
The game itself was what a hockey game should be. I sat behind a season ticket holder who had the name “GrandmaBeth” on the back of her jersey. When I wasn’t hollering “Go Leafs Go,” we chatted about Keith Aulie and Carter Ashton, two pieces in a trade at the deadline. GrandmaBeth was keeping a scorecard with goals, assists, penalties and the like. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, around us was into the game.
When it was over, there was a postgame party with $2 hotdogs and beverages, a free concert and a sense that you just got a glimpse of what a true community that rallies behind a team is all about.
Just imagine for a moment that the ACC was filled with the kinds of fans that took in that game in Tampa. Loud, proud and giving the team an edge.
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