Blue Jackets and Monsters Affiliation Has Endless Opportunities

After weeks of speculation, the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters and the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets announced a multi-year affiliation between the two clubs. Columbus will send its top prospects to Cleveland (where the Monsters play) to develop before taking the NHL stage. Cleveland and Columbus are two hours apart and the opportunities with this affiliation are endless.

Columbus had a strong fan base when entering the league in 1999. As the team continued to struggle even ten years after making its debut, the fan base began to decline and speculation about the team packing up and moving on became frequent conversation in the city. Financial problems also have plagued the team and the team has not been a draw at times like it once was.

Having its top minor league affiliate in a city two hours away can help that.

NHL in Cleveland has been a debated topic for a long time but most likely will not happen. Cleveland is considered to be too small to handle all of the four major sports. Putting an NHL franchise in the city does not guarantee success at the gate or in the long term.

Monsters fans enjoy going to NHL games as well as AHL games and Columbus will provide them an option. Seeing that the players on the Monsters next season will be property of the Blue Jackets, Monsters fans will have a chance to see players move on from Cleveland to Columbus as the season goes on. It will give these fans an incentive to follow the Jackets and become part of that fan base.

Monsters fans have also been longing for an NHL preseason game in Cleveland. Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Monsters, has not hosted an NHL preseason game in over a decade. When the International Hockey League’s Cleveland Lumberjacks called Quicken Loans Arena (then Gund Arena) home, NHL preseason games were brought in an drew vast interest. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightening and Detroit Red Wings all played preseason games inside Quicken Loans Arena and drew in lots of fans for those games.

The Blue Jackets can easily fill that desire if they choose to head two hours north for a preseason game. The game would be a draw and create interest in seeing the Jackets play in Columbus during the regular season.

Another option would be for the Blue Jackets to do a “home away from home game” by playing a regular season game in Cleveland. Though unlikely due to the revenue Nationwide Arena (home of the Jackets) would lose by moving a home game two hours north, it would give Monsters fans an opportunity to see an NHL team in the regular season. The trade off could be for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to do the same at Nationwide Arena (the Cavs and Monsters have the same owner in Dan Gilbert). This option would have its pros and cons like any other option and other considerations may have to come into play.

The Monsters and the Blue Jackets seem to be committed long-term partners and the opportunities to help both franchises are plentiful.

 

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~ by jeffrsabo on April 19, 2015.

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