The original idea submitted for this week's debate topic was relatively narrow in nature — should the Hurricanes be doing more to encourage the growth of hockey in Greenville? — but I think it raises a larger point which isn't so much relevant to the team's business operations as it is to the self-image of the team and its fans.
To wit: Should the Hurricanes be considered the Triangle's team? Or are they North Carolina's team?
Here's a portion of the original email, from reader Jane Olsen of Washington:
As a fan who lives outside the Triangle, the marketing folks make pretty obvious that season ticket sales and warm bodies in the building are their only concerns. Greenville has a blossoming youth hockey movement thanks to the recent addition of an ice rink and ECU's hockey club. Wouldn't it benefit the organization to reach out to the kids in the Greenville market? They could build fans for life out of a lot of these kids.
Greenville, obviously, is not one of the Hurricanes' core markets (Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Chapel Hill — Wake, Durham, Orange and the adjacent counties, like Johnston and Lee, in general) but it is one of the second-tier markets that does have some Hurricanes fans. Other similar examples would include, in no particular order, Fayetteville Alamance County, Wilson, Charlotte, Wilmington, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.
Is it worth the Canes' time and effort to try to cultivate these markets? Or should the team abandon any thoughts of statewide ambition and concentrate on strengthening its fan base within, say 30 minutes of the RBC Center?
So have at it. The response so far has been great.
I've got a few topics stored up for future use — thanks for sending those along to firstname.lastname@example.org, all of you who have — but many focus on business aspects of the team. Just between you, me and the goalpost, if you've got an on-ice or off-the-wall topic, you'll get to the top of the list a little quicker.