ST. LOUIS — After a more than four month wait, the St. Louis Blues will return to the ice Wednesday for an exhibition game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The contest will take place in Edmonton, the temporary home of the St. Louis Blues during the upcoming NHL playoffs. Games for the 24-team tournament are being played in the “bubble cities” of Edmonton and Toronto to protect against COVID-19.
With no fans in the stands and home games taking place more than 1,700 miles away from St. Louis, the NHL’s return presents a unique challenge for the Blues to engage with fans. The Business Journal spoke with Blues Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Steve Chapman about the team's fan engagement strategy in the “bubble." Here are four key takeaways from the conversation:
While the Blues won’t have ticket sales or attendance figures to tally, Chapman said there’s still “some clear measurements” to track fan engagement. The team will still be able to look at digital metrics, and Chapman said the Blues are already seeing a rise in online engagement as the playoffs near. Television ratings also will be a key metric for the team to track. The Blues are expecting high ratings, given that other sports that have returned recorded significant upticks in viewership.
“What an unbelievable event. It’s like the NCAA basketball tournament of professional hockey. You can watch meaningful playoff hockey all day long,” said Chapman.
The Blues over the past several years have placed increasing emphasis on their digital outreach, a component that will be key with the team playing hundreds of miles away. For example, the team is able to interact with fans through Bluenatics, a fan engagement platform it launched.
The team also is crafting craft content from inside the NHL’s bubble in Edmonton. For example, the Blues on Monday published an article on the team’s website about decorations in players' hotel rooms.
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