Opening statement: I just wanted to start, say a few words, and then I'll take some questions. Just the fact how excited I am about our team this year, kind of where we are, and just the fact that we're back to an 82-game season. Some sense of normalcy. I think the one thing that stands out to me is we have time. Time for Development Camp, Rookie Camp and now we got the [NHL] training camp. We got the six preseason games. I think it's really going to put us in a strong position as we go forward.
I do want to just touch on last year's season. It was very disappointing as you all know and to say the least. I think when we got done, I challenged our whole organization, 'what could we do to really make this team better?' I think everybody took it to heart and just really want to recognize Chuck and the staff because it's not an easy task. In this cap world that we live in, and the fact that this year, it's a flat cap. You have the hand you're dealt. We're all in the same boat there, but I think we accomplished a lot of our goals.
We've got depth. We've got experience. We've got leadership, on and off the ice. Couldn't be happier about that. Just looking at the energy and enthusiasm out there this week. It's pretty darn exciting. Lastly, I just want to thank our fans for sticking with us through this difficult time. We've really had to learn how to navigate through this pandemic. I think we've got it down now. I couldn't be more excited about just getting back to 100% capacity at the Wells Fargo Center. With that, happy to take a few questions.
At the end of last year, you said you didn't think wholesale teams were needed, and that it was a little misleading season. Then Chuck went out and made a lot of changes. Did he have to convince you that a lot of changes had to be made?
I think we had a lot of conversations about it, and it was really to make sure he had what he needed to work with. As you get into it, it's a little bit of a domino effect. You make the first big move with Ellis and we went on from there. We really strengthened the team. I think we knew what we wanted to do. It was defense-first for sure. Then we were fortunate, I think, to do pretty well on the forward side.
Dave, you praised Chuck for the aggressiveness this offseason and improving the team. Obviously, the hope is that the team is going to perform well. If the team doesn't perform well, do you envision that aggressiveness carrying over the season in terms of changes being made?
It's early, but job one is you've got to make the playoffs. You just have to make the playoffs. It's expected. I think we're all on the same page with that. I say we're early into this, but we're feeling pretty good.
My question is kind of the flip side of that. How important is to take the big picture of the team and exercise a little patience, a little time for all the pieces to gel together?
That's where I started today. That's the big difference. We have time. I think this is an organization that needs that time to really gel. A lot of new faces, so I think we have it. It's great to really have six preseason games and gives us time to figure out that final roster.
Dave, you aren't going to be involved in the specifics of the personnel decisions but taking me back to when we were having those initial conversations with Chuck. Was it, 'Hey, whatever it is, you have to do we have to find a way to get to that playoff level?' Was that your message to him?
Yeah, I mean really to get back. We were so happy about '19-20 and thought we could build off that. We couldn't. We did have a few moments, started pretty well last season but didn't like how it ended. I just tried to give him everything he needs to work with. That's what we ended up at.
Were you pretty careful to not overanalyze last season, just given all the challenges and how unique it really was because of the pandemic?
It was certainly a factor for everybody. Every team had to deal with it. No excuses. We talked a little bit. We did get hit hard by COVID, but others did too. It was a different time. Glad to be back to what I would call normal.
About Claude Giroux, it's going to be a pretty big year for him. Just how important has he been to the organization?
He's been with us his whole career. Going back, I think we drafted him in ['06]. It's been terrific. He's a good leader. He's really excited about where we're sitting right now.
It's a kind of a two-part question: I'm going to ask it this way first. How much did COVID impact the business side of things for the organization? And then I'll follow up with the other question.
We really got hit. We were fortunate we didn't go through a lot of layoffs and things others did, but we got really hit hard. To have the arena shut down whatever it was March 12 or 13th, I think our last game was a Sixers game on a Wednesday night. Flyers were down in Tampa. To go all that time, we had nothing going on the whole calendar year indoors. Got hit hard. Everybody stayed focused and kept looking at the future. Did a lot of planning. I think we're coming out of this in good shape.
The reason I was asking that is I was able to obtain the off-season ticket sales report for the NHL, and I noticed that the Flyers were down 3%. I think you're now 13th in the NHL and used to be towards top of the league. I was just curious if COVID was part of that, if the team needing to be better was part of that? Is there going to be some kind of building of a relationship between the organization and the fanbase?
I'll tell you that those reports are tough. There's so many variables and stuff. We did go through it with a fine-tooth comb, but I can tell you, new ticket sales were probably number one. I don't know if I could get Gary to say that, but we did very well on our new ticket sales and on renewals. I think we're at top five for sure. We're really happy where we're sitting as we look at it.
Between the bowl seating and season tickets, the news, the premium seating we're going to be north of 13,000 which we're really excited about. I think the biggest challenge on the business side is the group sales and we're seeing it everywhere in every industry. We manage convention centers and things. All that business is just down so we're going to have to work that harder.
When you say that number 13,000, you're talking full season equivalencies?
Yeah. If you look at it, and probably be a little bit north of there. Again, our fans were terrific, sticking with us. That's where we are.
I know some of the NHL is exploring different platforms for revenue. Some of your games this year are going to stream service. Do you view this as a trial run or is it sort of a wave of the future? How do you see it?
It's really the wave of the future. If you look at the younger generation, they're kind of driving all this streaming. When the NHL put their RFP out, the feedback was there's going to be a mix of streaming and kind of linear television. It's good there'll still be a lot of good games on ABC and ESPN, but there'll be a few that are just available on streaming. Good news is at the local level, our NBC Sports Philly, it'll all be kind of what you're used to. Clearly, it's shifting. It's shifting a little bit.
How far do you see this team being away from a Stanley Cup contender and not just a playoff contender? Do you think you're there now? Do you think you know it's going to take a couple years or how do you see that?
I'll tell you. I was so excited about the step we took back in, I guess that was '19-20. I think we want to build off that. Just got to win that Game 7 and take the next step. Once you get in the playoffs, anything can happen. I think we're going in the right direction. Again, we've got such a good balance with these veterans and young kids. I think we're in a good place.
No predictions on the season?
No predictions. No crystal ball. I wish.
You guys made a lot of moves, not just for this season, not just one push. A lot of the guys who brought it had a lot of term, not to mention the [Sean] Couturier re-signing and [Joel] Farabee re-signing. Is there a timeframe that you want to achieve by or is it just you guys are built for just now and also the future?
I think we're built really for a long successful future. You look at that pipeline all the time. You have to, really, in a cap world and figure out which contracts are coming up. You keep.. got to keep the funnel full. We were thrilled to get Sean to sign early and Farabee coming on. We're well-positioned.