I have written multiple articles about the lockout from different points of view, primarily my own as a season ticket holder while attempting to maintain an unbiased approach to the issue while reporting for The Predatorial.
I have spoken on behalf of a multitude of perspectives during this time of year without hockey and have dubbed myself as the “HardCore” fan of the Nashville Predators. I now have to recalculate my definition of what it is to be a “HardCore” fan after speaking with possibly one of the true Gold and Blueist fans of the game and ultimately the Nashville Predators: Ivan Santamaria.
While speculating about what fans are thinking and feeling about this new lockout and the parameters and disagreements between the NHL and NHLPA, I felt it necessary to go right to the source and ask a very knowledgeable and supportive fan who spends a good deal of time and money on the Nashville Predators and the NHL as a whole.
The background on Ivan Santamaria is quite frankly stunning. He has a portfolio of events and games that he and his family have gone to that would cross off most avid fans bucket list in one fell swoop. First off he lives in Memphis and was a Day One season ticket holder for the Memphis River Kings, a Southern Professional Hockey League team that was founded in 1992. The River Kings have since moved to Mississippi in 2007, but the love of hockey for Ivan has been a lasting affair.
In 1999, Ivan met his future wife and they began a relationship in 2003. Ivan’s first NHL game was watching the St. Louis Blues at home against the Phoenix Coyotes. His future wife, who became a season ticket holder for the Predators in 2002 took Ivan to his first Nashville contest in 2003 against the heated rival Chicago Blackhawks. Since then, Ivan has been a fervent supporter of the Nashville Predators and a full season ticket holder in Section 310.
Many Predator fans might remember Ivan as he and his wife were the couple married at a Predators game. The game was against the Columbus Blue Jackets in February of 2010, a game that the Predators fell behind early but would later come back to win. The fan relations and ticket representatives for the Nashville Predators were exceptional in their planning and amenities in coordinating Ivan’s fan-filled wedding with All-Inclusive Zone tickets and the ceremony taking place in one of the plush Predators conference rooms.
For their honeymoon, the Santamaria’s went with the Predators on the Western Canada road trip flying into Calgary for the game, driving to Edmonton for the next contest and finishing out in Vancouver for the loop. The Santamaria’s made some new friends in Vancouver and have had them down to Tennessee for a game at Bridgestone Arena. They have gone to three All-Star games: Minnesota, Dallas and Atlanta. On top of these amazing fan-flavored accomplishments, Ivan and his wife have attended the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field between Detroit and Chicago, have flown to England to watch the Ducks and Kings kick off the 2007 season with a two-game series and have been present at the NHL awards in Las Vegas and the 2010 NHL Entry Draft where the Predators selected Austin Watson with the 18th pick.
If there was any question to Ivan’s unwavering loyalty to the NHL and the Nashville Predators, look no further than how much he supports this team monetarily. Ivan still maintains his job in Memphis throughout the year and has to travel to Nashville for home games, roughly 30-34 a year not counting playoffs. He now has four season tickets in the lower sideline balcony section of 310 and a good estimate on price would be around $8,500. With these four tickets, Ivan uses two for him and his wife, the other two are to bring people in to enjoy the game that the Santamaria’s love so dearly. In this instance, the people brought into these games have gone on to purchase their own ticket packages, some even going into full season ticket holder status. It is Ivan’s passion for hockey that allows him to be an ambassador of sorts for the introduction and indoctrinization of hockey for the casual fan and his efforts to further the love for the game of hockey has a positive effect on the Nashville Predators in terms of newly generated fans and revenue.
In the concession department, he probably spends close to $2,000-3,000 and his merchandise expenses are even higher; around $3,500. Ivan confesses to buying new merchandise every time he comes up for a game and boasts a collection that “..[Ivan] could wear something different every day with Predators memorabilia for a month without wearing the same thing twice.” Let us not forget the gas to get to the 30-34 games a year from Memphis. Round trip costs about $150 in gas so being conservative he spends about $4,500 on travel expenses. If you are keeping count, that is:
Total: $19,000 per season
The proof is in the numbers. The same numbers that the league and players are fighting over as we speak. Ivan has a unique insight into this situation given how much of his hard-earned money he gives to the NHL every year. His opinion speaks volumes to whether or not the NHL and NHLPA are driving away the fanbase with the lockout and work stoppage.
When I asked him about the lockout, Ivan’s first words were simply “frustrating” and “heartbreaking”. He followed this up simply with what many fans have been clamoring about since before September 15th:
“Why the lockout when there is so much money to go around?”
Ivan does remain neutral on who’s to blame for the lockout and the inability to get things negotiated so hockey can begin. He believes both sides have legitimate claims and concessions to be made and hopes, like all hockey fans, that this will be resolved quickly.
However, he does persist in his view about the pre-lockout negotiations and how they were handled:
“They [NHL/NHLPA] knew it was going to expire, that the deadline was coming, but they did not have the urgency to come to the table and negotiate.”
When I asked about other season ticket holders he has been in contact with, Ivan relates that most are resolved to come back and “they, like my family, are invested in the team.”
Speaking on the casual fan and corporate support, Ivan had a sobering conclusion on how to rebuild and reattract the fanbase and investors that might be on the fence about coming back after the second lockout in Nashville Predators history:
“If the team is still competitive, the casual fan and corporate support will come back…this is key for any sports team especially hockey and even more so in non-traditional markets.”
Ivan is dead set in supporting the Predators and the NHL no matter what. It is his fervent belief that “you have to support [your team] through thick and thin.” He pointed to the L.A. Kings, winners of the Stanley Cup this season and their wait of 40 years to acheive hockey’s greatest accomplishment:
“For the Kings fans…the hardcore fan that stayed gets the satisfaction of that accomplishment, that great experience.”
In conclusion, I asked him if there was ever a breaking point with the NHL and their inability to end the lockout or if there were more labor strife and further delays in the next few years would that deter Ivan and his support. He deftly stated that “at this point…there is no deal-breaker for me not to come back.”
I would like to personally thank Ivan Santamaria for his time and his amazing insight into an unmatched supporter of the Nashville Predators. Speaking with Ivan about these issues and his fervent support may give Bettman and the owners more leverage in their negotiations knowing where this group of fans stand in their philosophy. But the issue crosses over so many levels of support from corporation dollars for marketing/advertising and the expensive suites to fill, to the joe/jill fan who might have an interest in another sports entertainment outlet in their city. Whether you’re a HardCore fan like Ivan and myself or the casual observer, the bottom line, to quote the Prince of Verona, is “all are punished” until the lockout ends and hockey resumes.
Thanks again go out to Ivan Santamaria and his keen insight and banter in our interview. We at The Predatorial are in your debt.
Feel free to comment below whether you are a season ticket holder, a corporate sales giant or the walk-up-to-the-arena casual fan, your opinion is valid in every way concerning the work stoppage. Follow us at @ThePredatorial and @Preducated.