NashvillePredators.com: It was an exciting Game 1 vs. Detroit Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena, and there seemed to be remarkably small amounts of red scattered among the “Gold Out.” Were you impressed with how well Nashville fans turned out for the game, went gold, and kept the red out?Nat Harden:
I’ve been here since the beginning. In the early days the fan breakdown would be 50/50 Nashville and Detroit, or sometimes 60/40 Detroit. I think a big difference is that over the years, as the team has become more and more competitive, more and more of those Red Wings fans have turned into Predators fans. Last night was a huge example of that. I couldn’t count 200 people in the building wearing red last night. It’s been great to see that transformation over the last 13 or 14 years. As an organization we’ve come a long way. Hopefully we can continue to keep the red out.NashvillePredators.com: What’s your reaction to the franchise-record 25 sellouts set by the Predators and their fans during the 2011-12 regular season?Nat Harden:
It was tremendous. Obviously we want to get to a point where we’re selling out all of our home games. But I believe it was three or four years ago that we only had six or seven sellouts. Going from six or seven sellouts to 25 sellouts shows how hockey’s growing in this community, how people have taken to the sport. Our fan base is growing and I think you see it every day. A lot of the kids that were 12 or 13 years old when we came to Nashville are now 25 or 26 year olds and are buying tickets. That’s huge for us. The times have definitely changed. Hopefully we can take that number from 25 sellouts to 30 or 35 sellouts next season.NashvillePredators.com: The Predators’ season ticket base has consisted primarily of individuals while many franchises sell a majority of their season tickets through corporate supporters. Is that balance changing in Nashville?Nat Harden:
There is a shift. We still weigh heavily toward the individual buyer but there are many companies, many corporations in this community that support us greatly—both from a sponsorship standpoint and a ticket standpoint. There are companies out there, for example CHS who has bought big groups. HCA buys huge groups. This year HCA brought out 3,000 of their employees to three different games. That’s tremendous support by the business community and it continues to improve. I think as the team becomes more and more popular, you’ll see that shift continue.NashvillePredators.com: Can you talk about how the Nashville market has changed since you started with the Predators?Nat Harden:
In the early years, when there was an icing infraction, there was almost a tutorial in game explaining what was happening. And offsides or any of the things that went on during the game. You could pick up headphones at the sales table to be able to listen to that instruction and learn the rules of the game. Now, driving into work you turn on the radio and you hear fans calling in asking intricate questions about what happened during the previous night’s game, or having strong opinions on what the team should or should not be doing. That’s really, really gratifying. I think we offer great entertainment value for people outside of what’s going on on the ice, but people are more and more involved in what’s going on on the ice versus what’s going on the megatron or what promotion we’re doing somewhere in the arena. That’s a great sign. In the early days it was more about what video clip we showed or what other activities we had going on. People have really taken to the game. It’s growing. You see it in the stands and you hear it when you turn on the radio and listen to the sports talk shows.NashvillePredators.com: In what areas do you see room for growth?Nat Harden:
There’s always room for growth. As we discussed, we sold out 25 games this season. We want to sell out every home game. And, you know what? There are still people out there in the community that aren’t hockey fans, that don’t watch the sport. We want to reach those people too and we want them to come to Bridgestone Arena and enjoy the games. We’re continually trying to cultivate new fans and get them to our game. From day one we always felt that if we could get somebody to one game they would come back. We continue to feel that way.