Monday, November 25, 2013

Variable pricing to benefit both the Red Sox and fans

By Zachary Baru

In an industry that has seen many changes in recent years when it comes to ticket sales, the need to fill the ballpark to capacity and the growing competition from the secondary market has forced the Boston Red Sox to introduce a popular trend in ticket sales, variable pricing.

Variable pricing is more than raising prices for the dates with the highest demand, it also includes lowering prices for the dates with the lowest demand, giving fans the opportunity to purchase tickets in 2014 from the box office for as low as $10.  This will give the Red Sox a better chance to sell out certain dates that statistically do not sell well.  And yes, the statistics are about the dates, not the opponents. 

The Red Sox conducted an internal study, ranking the 81 home dates from most to least desirable for fans to purchase.  This resulted in a schedule with five tiers of pricing, starting with Tier 1 being the highest, and decreasing to Tier 5, comprising of the 16 least desirable dates.

According to the team's study, some of the most popular dates statistically are after the All-Star game in July.  Make no mistake, the variable pricing structure is very much a statistical approach, and one that will allow the team to maximize prices to reflect the market value.

Without the ability to increase or decrease prices based on demand, the Red Sox are at a disadvantage against the secondary market, which allows market value to determine prices.  By the Red Sox introducing variable pricing, the team is moving closer to competing with websites like StubHub, where fans can sell tickets to other fans, and sometimes at prices below face value.  This is something that occurred all too often during 2012.

Now that that the Red Sox have captured another World Series title, and have won back fans, the team will attempt to stay in front of the competition, and curb as many secondary market sales as possible.  The opportunity for fans to purchase tickets at a lower price for games with a lower demand is not only fair, it is essential to selling out games, and more closely resembles supply and demand.  All Major League Baseball teams now have some form of variable pricing, and the Red Sox should not be any different.  Finding ways to increase ticket sales while still offering lower priced tickets presents an opportunity to meet the needs of both the team and the fans, and illustrates why variable pricing is such an effective pricing strategy.

Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thursday's Bruins game shows why ties belong in the NHL

By Zachary Baru

If you watched Thursday night's Boston Bruins game against the St. Louis Blues, you saw three great periods of hockey, followed by an exciting overtime, and a shootout that illustrates why regular season ties are meant to be just that, ties.

To many hockey fans, a game does not necessarily need to be decided as a win or a loss, and a tie can reward both teams with a hard-fought game, and leave fans feeling entertained for two and a half hours.  Regardless of the fact that postseason overtimes in hockey can be some of the most exciting moments to watch in all of sports, during the regular season it is not necessary to end a game with a gimmick or skill such as a shootout.

After watching an entire game, it is more rewarding to see a team win on a hockey play, rather than on a part of the sport that resembles the skills competition of an all-star game more than anything else.  Thursday night's game was a perfect example.  With the Bruins and Blues tied 2-2 in overtime and 15 seconds remaining, the Bruins' Carl Soderberg had a breakaway opportunity to end the game, but the puck went into the pads of Jaroslav Halak.  Having the game end on a hockey play like that would certainly have been entertaining, but staging a penalty shot in a shootout just does not have the same effect.

Shootouts were introduced to the National Hockey League after the lockout and cancellation of the 2004-05 season.  The league, looking for ways to improve the game from an entertainment standpoint, introduced several rule changes, one of which being the shootout.

While shootouts may excite newer fans, and understanding that this is an audience that the NHL is focused on, traditional fans do not need shootouts to stay interested in hockey.  Rule changes after the lockout such as removing two-line passes and reducing goaltender equipment by eleven percent made the game faster and higher scoring, and to the league's delight, appealing to newer fans.  With the game unquestionably much faster and higher scoring than before the 2004-05 season, is the shootout really necessary?  Aside from disappointing traditional fans, it also changes broadcast schedules, as the shootout lengthens the typical two and a half hour television time slot by about fifteen minutes.

Returning the game to the way it was always played, before the shootout, would satisfy longtime hockey fans who remember when great evenly matched games would end in a tie, rewarding both teams, and leaving all fans feeling entertained.  No gimmicks, no skill competitions, just 1 point for rewarding a team for what happened on the ice, not what happened in a shootout after the game.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Monday, October 21, 2013

Revolution attract largest stand-alone MLS crowd since 2009

By Zachary Baru

Don't tell the Revolution they can't compete with baseball, as Saturday night proved to be a night where soccer fans showed their support on the Revs' home finale, and in impressive numbers.  Just as the Red Sox were looking to reach the World Series at Fenway Park, down I-495 in Foxborough the Revolution came one step closer to reaching the playoffs with a 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew before a season-high crowd of 26,458.

This was also the largest stand-alone Major League Soccer crowd for the Revolution since August 8, 2009, in a game against the Los Angeles Galaxy.  Since many MLS franchises schedule doubleheaders with international clubs playing friendlies, MLS attendance records are often recorded separately for stand-alone games.

For the Revolution front office, the season finale could not have been any better.  Edging Columbus in a close, exciting game in front of a season-high crowd and giving the Revs an opportunity to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2009 - depending on the results when the season ends this Sunday in Columbus - made for the perfect script to end the home schedule of an entertaining season.

Saturday's game was a reminder of just how supportive Revolution fans can be.  With better on-field performance this season and the emerging young talent from players like Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe, it is easy to understand why fans have returned the favor and come out to show their support.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bruins' popularity creates new task for franchise

By Zachary Baru

Could it be that times are too good for the Boston Bruins?  You could say that is the case for the Bruins, who are enjoying strong revenue from multiple streams.  But with a surge in popularity beginning in the 2008-09 season and highlighted by the championship season of 2011, the Bruins are close to maxing out some revenue streams including season tickets and sponsorship sales.

Season tickets are once again sold out this season, and have a long waiting list.  With revenue streams maxing out, the Bruins will need to seek new ways to generate revenue.  

It's the problem every sports franchise wants to have, as the Bruins' popularity shows no signs of slowing down.  It's little examples like Comcast SportsNet airing a special thirty-minute Bruins post-game show immediately following Thursday night's opening night game on NESN.  Five years ago, no such thing would ever occur.  

As for attendance, the Bruins have reached 100 percent capacity since the start of the 2010-11 season.  The Bruins were just short of that mark in 2008-09 and 2009-10, reaching 97 percent and 99 percent capacity respectively.

While the Bruins are hot at the gate, the television numbers are just as good.  Bruins television ratings were up 41 percent last season from 2011-12, good for the third-highest television rating in the National Hockey League during 2012-13.

As the Bruins come close to maxing out important revenue streams, it appears that times are in fact too good for the franchise.  That's one problem the Bruins won't mind facing.

Source: ESPN, SportsBusiness Journal

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Revolution draws season-high crowd Saturday

By Zachary Baru

The result may not have been what the New England Revolution were looking for, but fans flocked to Foxborough Saturday night as the Revs tied the Houston Dynamo 1-1 before a season-high crowd of 21,297.

Large crowds are not uncommon for Revs late in the season, as many of their promotions and ticket plans fill seats in these final home games.  This on top of the Revolution's push for the last playoff berth helped bring a large crowd and a playoff-like atmosphere to Gillette Stadium.

As the top rows of the lower bowl are typically tarped off for Revolution home games, on Saturday much of the lower bowl was sold.  It was an opportunity for the Revs to have an "official" sellout, but it is hard to be disappointed with a crowd of 20,000-plus, especially with many Major League Soccer stadiums only holding 18,000-20,000 fans.

The Revs finished the 2012 season with an average of 14,001 fans per home game, which was up 5.9 percent from 2011.

The Revolution have one more home game remaining, October 19 against Columbus.  A decent amount of tickets have been sold, in what should be another large crowd for the Revolution.

Source: Sports Business Journal

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Monday, September 30, 2013

98.5 The Sports Hub grows its empire by inking deal with Celtics

By Zachary Baru

As if 98.5 The Sports Hub was not already in control of much of the Boston sports radio scene, the CBS-owned station added yet another team to its broadcast-rights.  The Sports Hub, or WBZ-FM, announced a multiyear agreement Thursday to broadcast the Celtics, which will not divert any Boston Bruins broadcasts to any other networks.  The Sports Hub will continue to broadcast all Bruins games, moving Celtics games that conflict to 100.7 (WZLX-FM).

With the addition of the Celtics, The Sports Hub now broadcasts four of the five major teams in New England, as they already broadcast Patriots and Revolution games.  Revolution games are a simulcast of the Comcast SportsNet New England broadcast.

While Entercom formerly had a monopoly in Boston sports radio, The Sports Hub has quickly grown to take over the country's seventh largest market.  Launched in 2009, The Sports Hub was the only FM sports station, and used their strong signal and interesting personalities to capture the interest of Boston listeners.

During a time when sports radio was starting to appear on FM, WEEI failed to do so, leaving the door open for CBS to launch the Sports Hub, the beginning of what is now an empire in Boston sports radio.  WBZ-FM also gains strong television presence from the simulcast of its popular afternoon drive program the "Felger & Massarotti Show".

Since the launch of The Sports Hub, WEEI revenues are down nearly 20 percent, according to an article published by the Boston Globe last month.

As The Sports Hub continues to expand its audience, more and more listeners are being converted to their new style of broadcasting, after decades of dominance from WEEI.  The Sports Hub's slightly less-serious but more fun approach to programming has proved to be successful with sports fans, and in just four years has changed an entire radio market.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Diego Fagundez leading the Revolution on and off the field

By Zachary Baru

It is not often that a team's leading scorer creates so much buzz for reasons other than their scoring capabilities.  Then again, it is not often a team has a local athlete that is developed in their own academy and is only eighteen years of age.  For the New England Revolution,  Diego Fagundez is all of these things, combining stellar play with his massive off-the-field appeal, creating both excitement and attention for the franchise.

Fagundez, of Leominster, played on the Revolution's academy team before being signed to a senior roster contract on November 15, 2010, becoming the Revolution's first homegrown player.  The combination of his local ties and young age make Fagundez highly marketable to Major League Soccer's key demographic.  And let's not forget about his impressive skill.

A new generation of fans is watching MLS who only know the league in its present form as an established part of the professional sports landscape.  MLS has gone through its growing pains in the late 90's and now has a strong identity and following that has lead to the expansion of its 20th franchise earlier this year in New York City.  Fagundez represents a new generation of fans who for the first time the Revolution can connect to on a more personal level.

He attracts hundreds of fans seeking autographs after each home game, and he is very good about staying to sign them all.  And who can blame him?  After all, just a few years ago, he was them.  This is the connection that is so important for the Revolution and their fans, making Fagundez arguably the face of the franchise.  His popularity has gone national, most recently from being the subject of the MLS documentary program "MLS: 36", which aired on NBC Sports Network.  The appeal of Fagundez allows the Revolution to market their brand of soccer to more than the average soccer fan, which has always been, and continues to be a challenge for all MLS franchises.  That connection is something Fagundez has been able to master, creating attention from the non-soccer community and using his on-the-field production to make believers of soccer fans across the country.

Having a player with the appeal of Fagundez is a void the Revolution have had since Taylor Twellman retired in 2010 after suffering a concussion two years prior.  What is so special about Fagundez is that he is able to be marketed to both traditional and non-traditional soccer fans.  He is the team-leader in goals this season, earned MLS Player of the Week earlier in the year, and shows no signs of slowing down.

At just eighteen, Diego Fagundez delivers the high expectations with results week after week.  It is no wonder why there is so much buzz about this young athlete.  He is able to withstand the pressure, and shows so much joy doing it.  Meet Diego Fagundez, the newest, youngest star in New England sports.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Deutsche Bank Championship winning over fans for more than just golf

By Zachary Baru

Whether or not you are a golf fan, it is very easy to be a fan of the Deutsche Bank Championship.  Since 2003 when the tournament began, so many of the headlines coming out of TPC Boston in Norton were about the players and the scores, while the most important numbers are the charitable contributions.

From the tournament's inception ten years ago, over $24 million in charitable proceeds has been generated.  No, that is not a typo, it is a number that continues to grow each year, primarily benefiting the Tiger Woods Foundation.  In addition, the tournament benefits the Stop & Shop/Giant Family Foundation and other charities throughout New England.

In last year's tournament alone, charitable contributions reached $2.4 million.  Clearly, the Deutsche Bank Championship is far more than a PGA Tour event, but rather an event for the entire region.  Capitalizing off its current status as the second of four tournaments that are part of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the tournament receives high exposure both locally and on the national stage.  This results in the biggest names in golf coming to Norton, great attendance, and most importantly, large charitable donations.

The Deutsche Bank Championship is just one example of what is happening at tournaments across the country.  Tournaments from the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Tour combined to surpass $130 million in charitable contributions in 2012.  As of April 2013, the all-time total raised for charity from the PGA Tour reached $1.86 billion.  It is expected that the $2 billion mark may be reached in early 2014.  The Deutsche Bank Championship is just one of many great stories that can be found on the PGA Tour.

What has been occurring at TPC Boston in Norton over the last decade is somewhat of a model of what sports and entertainment should be - an event that not only impacts the local economy, but also gives back to the community through charity.  That is just what is taking place at the Deutsche Bank Championship next month, when sport and community blend together entertaining fans and raising millions through the act of charitable giving.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Friday, July 19, 2013

Liverpool at Fenway should be a yearly stop

By Zachary Baru

A year ago Fenway Park was preparing to transform into a soccer pitch, hosting two world-famous clubs in an exhibition match that would set the Fenway Park record attendance for a soccer game.  On July 25, 2012, Liverpool FC visited the Boston ballpark in a game against Italy's AS Roma before 37,169 fans.

Not only did the match attract a large crowd from the soccer enthusiasts, but the game was also televised live on ESPN2, in a successful night for Fenway Sports Group, owners of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool.  So why can't the group continue the baseball-soccer connection, and keep the successful event as an annual tradition?

Let's start with the fans.  Although the New England Revolution do not always get the support they deserve, there still is rich soccer roots in Boston.  International matches at Gillette Stadium routinely draw well, and have become a staple at the stadium in Foxboro.  A recently announced international friendly at Gillette between Brazil and Portugal will take place September 10, in what is sure to be a highly attended event.

In addition to last year's record setting soccer attendance at Fenway, a 2010 match between Scotland's Celtic FC and Portugal's Sporting drew 32,162 fans.  It is apparent that Boston can support international soccer, and given the last two events at Fenway, having Liverpool make an annual appearance in Boston seems to be more a matter of scheduling and travel than fan support.  Liverpool's preseason "LFC Tour 2013" currently lists stops in Indonesia, Australia and Thailand.  Making a stop in Boston is undoubtably not as easy as simply flying the teams over, a North American stop here would have to be worked into the tour's travel plans accordingly.

There's one thing that is for sure, the numbers don't lie.  Although 37,000-plus fans at Fenway is not exactly impressive to international soccer, having an extra event with such magnitude at the ballpark would be beneficial for the Red Sox, who continuously try to add events to make Fenway Park a host for more than just 81 regular season games.  Additionally, having Liverpool visit Fenway would strengthen the relationship between the two Fenway Sports Group assets, possibly creating new fans between the two clubs.

Will Liverpool ever make Fenway a yearly stop?  Most likely not.  But for all of the complications that travel and scheduling can bring, the rewards of building a stronger relationship between clubs and enhancing an international brand for Liverpool are tough opportunities to waste.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why Tim Tebow can work in New England

By Zachary Baru

When it comes to managing someone with a massive fan and media following, only a few National Football League franchises have the ability to properly and successfully handle the amount of attention Tim Tebow would receive.  And it is no surprise that the New England Patriots are first on that list.

For anyone who believes Tebow lacks the skills needed to be on the Patriots' roster, you can take this one to the bank - Bill Belichick is not interested in marketing or public relations.  He never was, and never will be.

While questions would arise around the decision-making process behind another franchise signing Tebow, for reasons of marketing and so forth, these questions should not exist in New England.  Under Robert Kraft and Belichick, the Patriots will always have a football-first mentality, and have a history of making controversial signings.  Only franchises who are managed well from the top-down are able to make these types of moves, without disrupting the rest of the team.

With nothing to lose on Tebow's contract, and everything to gain, you can be sure Belichick will manage Tebow in a different manner than that of the New York Jets.  Just look at the difference between the Jets' press conference after Tebow's signing, compared to way the Patriots introduced Tebow to the media earlier this week.

New England may just be the perfect place for someone in Tebow's situation.  A place he knows that he is playing under management that wants him for the right reasons, something that would be up for debate nearly anywhere else.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bruins ratings up 41 percent

By Zachary Baru

In a report released by SportsBusiness Journal, the Bruins television ratings have increased 41 percent from last season, finishing with the third-highest television rating in the National Hockey League.  The Bruins' average rating was a 6.60, falling short of only Pittsburgh and Buffalo. 

Pittsburgh finished with a league-leading rating of 12.56, while Buffalo ended the season with a 9.46 rating.

While the Bruins' 41 percent increase was impressive, it was not even in the top 5 for rating increases from the 2011-2012 season.  The New York Islanders were victors in that category, as their on-ice performance this season lead to a 133.3 percent change.

The Bruins also finished in the top 5 in average audience size, good for second in the league with an average of 156,000 households.  Boston, the nation's seventh largest media market, fell behind only Chicago, the nation's third largest market.

What does all of this say?  Well it is something we already knew - Bruins fans are supporting their team the way passionate fans should support a successful team in a traditional hockey market.  Ratings are up, merchandise sales are strong, and tickets continue to sell out every game at high prices.  Also noteworthy, is that the secondary market ticket sales (StubHub) are strong as well, with playoff tickets currently starting at $165 per seat.

Times are good for the Bruins.  Think back to how this differs from the pre-2007 teams, when season tickets dipped below 5,000, and this is a classic example of how improved on-ice performance can turn around a franchise.

Source: SportsBusiness Journal, Nielsen

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bruins win Wednesday night ratings battle

By Zachary Baru

As mentioned by Mike Felger on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Felger & Massarotti" show, the Wednesday night ratings battle between Boston sports teams was not even close.  In a flip from ten years ago, the Bruins came out as the clear winner, topping both the Celtics and Red Sox in a night full of New England sports. 

The Bruins received a rating of 9.5, much higher than that of the Celtics, who had a 5.5 rating.  The Red Sox, who were televised on NESNplus (not sure why NESN feels the need to butcher the capitalization) received a rating of 4.5.

If there is any doubt of the passion fans have for the Bruins in Boston, none should remain after reading Wednesday's ratings.  Playoff hockey is a much different breed than regular season hockey, a more severe change than arguably any other sport.  And this notion proves true on Wednesday night, as Boston sports fans came out in full-swing to show their love for Bruins hockey.

While NESN has been demoting the end of the Bruins' regular season to NESNplus coverage during simultaneous games with the Red Sox, this trend will stop, as NESN will again have similar coverage of both teams on Saturday.

For over a decade, it was not hard to figure out the order of popularity between Boston sports franchises.  But since the Bruins' championship season in 2011, the landscape has changed drastically, leaving popularity up for debate.  Here is to another week of amazing competition - off the field that is, and in the ratings.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

If New York/New Jersey can host a Super Bowl, Boston can host an All-Star Game

By Zachary Baru

The cold weather can only keep the NBA All-Sar Game out of Boston for so long.  On Monday, the Boston Globe reported that Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told the paper the Celtics are considering filing an application to host a future All-Star Game, something that has not occured in 49 years.

Yes that is right, the nation's seventh largest media market, and one of, if not the most passionate sports market, has not hosted an NBA All-Star Game since 1964.   13,464 fans saw Bill Russel, Tom Heinsohn, Sam Jones and Wilt Chamberlain, among others, in Boston's final All-Star Game at the Boston Garden.

If you're wondering why Boston hasn't hosted the game since, no it's not a lack of hotels or public transportation.  In recent years, it seems to be related to one aspect of the region - weather.  The last NBA All-Star Game to be hosted in a cold-weather climate was in 2005 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.  The game has been absent from the northeast since 2002, when the First Union Center in Philadelphia hosted.  There have been two name changes to that arena since then.

Boston is more than ready for a game of this magnitude.  It has more than enough convention space, hotels, and public transportation to accomodate the fans.  If there are still any doubters, just think of the World Series games, Stanley Cup Finals, and wait a minute - even the NBA Finals.  Still doubting Boston can host an All-Star Game?

Admittedly, Boston's infrastructure can be used as a reason to avoid such an event.  With all of the public transportation we have, infrastructure will continue to be a problem in Boston, and it would not be a suprise if this is used as an excuse. 

When it comes to sports, Boston can always be guaranteed to show its passion.  This is a sports city.  It has always been, and will always be.  If the NBA wants a city that will undoubtedly show its full support for not just the game on Sunday, but all of the weekend's festivities, Boston can get the job done.  We have the convention space, the hotel accomodations, and all of the public transportation you need to get right into TD Garden.  We can't guarantee decent weather, but the highest level of passion and energy would be a sure bet in Boston.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Red Sox' image must continue to improve for 2013 season

By Zachary Baru

Getting rid of Josh Beckett is not going to fix the once perfect perception fans had of the Boston Red Sox.  As opening day of the 2013 season approaches, the image of the franchise will continue to be a work in progress, with the Red Sox front office attempting to climb out of a hole that has been getting deeper for quite some time.

The good news - for everyone, not just the front office - is that New England fans are historically extremely forgiving.  In time, everyone can go back to adoring this franchise the way fans across the region once did, without having to think of all of the negatives that past players have given us to talk about, and the circus that went on after Terry Francona was dismissed.

The Red Sox have been on PR patrol for quite some time, and the upcoming weeks and months will be no different.  You know things are a little off when Comcast Sports Net's sponsors include the Red Sox advertising individual game tickets.  With the front office expressing an attempt to be more transparent, 2013 looks to be a year in which the Red Sox will fully try to rebuild their brand as best they can.

But can the Red Sox brand ever be restored to the level of popularity it held in the mid 2000s?  The answer may be as simple as the amount of titles they can produce.  Boston fans don't forget, but they are quick to forgive.  It is a common theme seen with different events that are covered in Boston sports media, which may be attributed to the intense sports media market that Boston is.  With media coverage  changing so rapidly, the spotlight of negativity seems to move along with it.

Aside from the games themselves, one major story to follow will be how the Red Sox attempt to improve their image, and their brand as a whole.  One thing you can count on, to be blunt, these guys aren't idiots.  They know what they're doing, and they know how to market their team to appeal to fans, boosting the ratings, and selling the jerseys the way they once did just a few years ago.  Have faith in the Red Sox, 2013 should be the beginning of a much improved franchise image.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Thursday, February 28, 2013

LED dasherboards can generate revenue, become detrimental to game

By Zachary Baru

As if New England sports fans have not seen enough advertisements for Bob's Discount Furniture, you may have noticed during the last Bruins road game that the brand has invaded the New York Islanders' dasherboards digitally, using LED dasherboard advertisements.  Coincidentally, the last three Bruins road games have all been played in arenas with LED dasherboards, part of a trend in the National Hockey League that has been growing for years.

Not only did Bruins fans see this advertising at the Islanders' arena, which was the first venue in the NHL to introduce this technology, but fans saw it during the previous two games at the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.  While this technology allows franchises to show multiple advertisements instead of dedicating the space for one sponsor, the LED dasherboard is just simply an eye sore, in a league which strives on aesthetics.

For any extra revenue that could be generated from this technology, intruding on the visual aspect of the game is a lot to sacrifice.  Sure other markets such as Chicago use augmented reality to place logos for television on the glass behind the net, but let's deal with one thing at a time here.  Fortunately the Bruins do not use this technology on the ice at TD Garden, and hopefully that will continue into the future.

Technology continues to be a growing aspect of professional sports, and for the most part greatly aids the game, as well as the business.  Take soccer for example.  These days teams that play in venues that do not include field-level LED signage boards come across as outdated franchises.  The game presentation, especially for television, is arguably less exciting for soccer teams that do not use this technology. In Major League Soccer, newer franchises with a focus on marketing, such as Seattle and Kansas City, use field-level LED signage boards to give their sponsors maximum exposure.

The problem with using this technology in hockey is simple - hockey is not soccer.  The playing surface is much smaller than a large soccer field, making LED advertisements on the ice extremely distracting.

There will undoubtably be many more innovations in sports that change the way we watch games in the future.  While they can potentially increase revenue, there are certain occasions where what is most profitable may effect the game itself, which one can debate is ultimately detrimental to both the game and the business.  It may be something as small and harmless as LED dasherboards, but it is small aspects such as this that can begin to ruin the game, rather than keep it progressing in the right direction.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lowell deserves another shot at the AHL

By Zachary Baru

With a great arena, a hot hockey market, and a prime location near multiple franchises, the city of Lowell would be a great candidate for a new American Hockey League franchise.  The last franchise, owned by the New Jersey Devils, left Lowell for Albany after the 2009-10 season. 

The lease beween the New Jersey Devils and the Tsongas Center ended in 2009-10, and was reportedly too good to be continued.  In February of 2010, the University of Massachusetts Lowell took ownership of the the 6,496-seat arena.  Later that year, Global Spectrum, a subsidarary of Comcast Spectacor, took over arena management.

UMass Lowell provided renovations to the venue, including a new video board, LED sinage, and a new sound system.  The result was an ideal arena for minor league hockey's highest level, the AHL.  UMass Lowell continues to play at the arena, currently averaging 5,114 fans per game, which is good for 12th in the nation for Division I hockey.

If college hockey can draw over 5,000 fans per game, than why couldn't professional hockey do the same?  The Devils left Lowell one season before the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup, which has since boosted hockey's popularity to an even higher level.  A low-priced alternative to NHL hockey could certainly have potential in this market in the present day.

On the other hand, history does speak volumes.  During Lowell's last season in the AHL, the franchise finished last in attendance, averaging 2,498 fans per game.  Fast-forward to today, and the league average is currently 5,587.  So can Lowell really keep up with the big markets in the AHL like Chicago, Cleveland and Houston?

With the resurgence of hockey throughout New England, an exceptional intimate arena, and a perfect geographical location to other franchises, Lowell truly is an interesting market for the AHL.  Interesting may not be enough to cut it, especially with the way the Devils finished in attendance in their final year.  But with everything Lowell has to offer, this is not a market to be overlooked.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Friday, January 18, 2013

Celtics' Seats For Soldiers night a reminder of the good sports can do

By Zachary Baru

On Monday the Boston Celtics hosted their sixth annual Seats For Soldiers night at TD Garden during their game against the Charlotte Bobcats.  This night is an example of the many ways sports can make a positive affect on society, and what better way to do it than to have over 1,200 United States armed service members receiving free tickets to the game. 

The Boston Celtics have long had a history for giving back to their community, which is one of many reasons why this franchise is so beloved by the region.  The Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation is an example of this, which is a community initiative partnering with New England non-profit youth charities. 

Seeing over one thousand armed service members in uniform at TD Garden is quite a site.  Even better is seeing Rajon Rondo high fiving a young man in uniform in the front row during the middle of the game.  It is that connection of famous athletes showing their support and pride for our troops that gives us perspective of who our true heros really are.

A message like this is not delivered every game, which is why it is important that nights like Monday exist.  There is often so many negative stories in sports, and franchises sometimes get looked upon as stricly being a business, not having any community incentive.  Seats For Sodiers night proves both of those accusations wrong, and provides an opportunity for sports to play a positive role in society.  Even if it is something as simple as season ticket holders donating free tickets to service men and women who cannot possibly be paid back for their bravery.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru, and reached at