Steph Merritt

Steph Merritt

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Hi Bleacher Reporters!

I'm Steph, a fiercely loyal and extremely vocal sports fan. Like all graduates of Florida State, I'm a huge Seminoles fan. Yes, I'm extremely biased. Yes, I hate the Gators and Hurricanes. It's just how things are.

I'm also an avid hockey fan--I love my Florida Panthers. '93ers kick butt. Over the years people have given me lots of crap for being a Panther fan, but it doesn't sway me.

If I don't have a favorite team in a particular sport, I'll just pick a team to win--usually the team you want to lose. It's how I roll.

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  • Steve Thompson posted 3139 days ago

    Steve Thompson

    Thanks for responding again Steph. Actually if a new generation of fans grows up with hockey in Florida and in some of the other troubled franchise areas, that would be the best thing for the game. But one other thing would have to be done too and that is the development in Florida and other southern areas of junior hockey. It is no good just having kids watching hockey and liking it. They have to get a chance to play it. Up here, boys can enter structured hockey leagues at an early age and work their way up to the top junior level, the CHL and from there if they're good, they get drafted into the NHL. Unfortunately American hockey lacks such a structure which is one of the main reasons why Americans despite their large advantage in population over Canada fail to produce good players on the scale that Canada does. Most of the good American players that come directly from the United States come from playing university hockey. More common is that American boys that have talent are sent up here when they reach the junior age to play in the CHL so that they can develop further. Mike Modano is probably the most famous player that developed that way. The boys are placed in homes of people who offer to look after them while they play in a small Canadian city/town and become like foster parents to them.
    Next week, the final round of the CHL takes place where the winners of the three regional sections of the CHL (Quebec/Maritimes, Ontario, Western Canada) plus a host team compete for the top prize in junior hockey, the Memorial Cup. I doubt if you get much coverage in Florida but you might check the Internet to find out the results if you are interested.
    One of things you would probably like about staying in Canada for a short while as far hockey is concerned is much better tv coverage. In Toronto, we are able to watch every game of every series thanks to the CBC and TSN. The Memorial Cup is a big deal up here and every game will be televised. The recent World Championships (in which Canada lost to Russia in the final) were televised. The World Junior Championship is very big up here.
    Another thing that has got increased coverage in recent years is women's hockey. Since women's hockey has become an Olympic sport, more women are entering leagues and taking up the game. Unfortunately, women's hockey is still only in its infancy world wide and only Canada and the United States put up really competitive teams. The game has to be developed more in Europe for women yet.
    As far as watching a game in Canada, it is exciting but not what it used to be. This is because hockey, like all major league sports is becoming more and more restricted to rich people. For example, if you were to watch a game on tv from Toronto, at the beginning of each period, you would see large clusters of empty seats at ice level. Why? These seats are so expensive, they have been purchased by corporatations who use them to entertain clients. So while the game is resumes, these "fans" are still in the bar area talking business deals with their guests. You still get a good atmosphere, with knowledgable fans, particularly during the playoffs but I wish more ordinary fans could afford to buy seats. One of the main hopes in getting Phoenix moved to Hamilton is that more "ordinary" fans would be able to go to games for a cheaper price. Actually the best atmosphere I've seen so far this year in the playoffs is (surprise surprise) in Carolina. They were really getting into it when they beat Boston in the last game.
    I'm sorry to hear about Bouwmeester but Florida does need star players to draw fans and make the playoffs. A good trade or draft choice would help. And as a final note, I read worst language on another sports blog about Kevin Youkilis during the recent World Baseball Classic.

  • Steve Thompson posted 3139 days ago

    Steve Thompson

    Hi Steph, Thanks again for responding. There is nothing wrong with south Florida fans. I don't regard them as being especially "fickle" any more than fans anywhere else, including Canada. And after having a series of years of bad teams when the Panthers didn't make the playoffs, who can blame the fans for staying away. The Blue Jays, here in Toronto are not drawing as well as expected despite being in first place for the same reason. Too many bad teams in the recent past since the World Series years have dulled support. Once people start realizing that they have a better team, it's hoped that fans will come back.
    And there is nothing wrong with the way Florida treats its season ticket holders or the passion of the Panthers fans..
    Unwittingly, you've mentioned the true problem as a minor comment. ABUNDANT IS the problem. Up here in Toronto, the Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup for 42 years. In many of those years, the franchise had horrible teams but the fans (suckers including myself?) continued to buy the tickets. The team has not made the playoffs in four years yet the Leafs are considered the most valuable team in the NHL.
    It's different in Florida. Bad teams have eroded a lot of support and because hockey doesn't have deep roots in Florida like it does in Ontario, the future of the franchise is threatened. Florida was one of the worst money-losing teams this year and despite the team's improvement, not making the playoffs again hurt. I hope you are right about Bouwmeester, because if he leaves, fans might perceive that the team is going backwards and not renew season tickets and hurt the walk-up gate. The team might turn around its fortunes but how long is the ownership going to be patient while it keeps losing money?

  • Steve Thompson posted 3139 days ago

    Steve Thompson

    Thanks for reading and commenting on my article, Steph. You may become one of the forgotten fans of American hockey. Five teams (Phoenix, New York Islanders, Florida, Atlanta, and Nashville) are teetering on relocation and contraction. In your case, Florida is becoming well-known for padding attendance and almost giving away tickets in order to lure fans. It's a shame when hockey makes true fans in bad American markets that can't sustain teams. They become attached to the game like fans elsewhere and then become victims when the team does not take off. One of my fans on BR is from Phoenix. Imagine how she must feel with this current crisis. Your true enemy is not Canadians clamouring for relocation to neglected markets but the unpopularity of hockey in the United States which translates into bad revenues and tv. ratings. I've come across lots of American fans complaining about American tv coverage on Versus and then tried to explain that hockey is so unpopular that Versus is all the NHL can get. Potentially losing Jay Bouwmeester to free agency won't help the Florida market either. Landing a big name hockey star to draw fans would probably help the Florida. For now the best you can do to help the situation is to buy tickets and get all your friends and relatives to buy them too and watch as many games on tv as possible to boost ratings.

  • Patrick Cwiklinski posted 3152 days ago

    Patrick Cwiklinski

    Hey I wrote an article on the current state of NHL writers on Bleacher Report and I think it's an important read to members of the community. Take a look when you get a chance. Thanks.

  • Miah D. posted 3163 days ago

    Miah D.

    i know where you come from, i would have acted the same way if i were u! :)

    ah, that is the rule of the game right?! :D

    take care,
    miah :)

  • Miah D. posted 3164 days ago

    Miah D.

    welcome on Bleacher Report,on the NHL community and in the Foxes community!

    Are you watching the playoffs?

    I hope all is well, and that you will have fun around here. If you need anything, just tell me. :)

    Take care,

    Miah (community leader of the Foxes in the Hennhouse)