We often get the mainstream media’s analysis of the Canucks, the on-ice product, and in some cases, the off-ice product. In many cases, we see franchise owners that are only concerned about the on-ice product because that’s what affects their bottom line.
Last week, the Vancouver Board of Trade put on a luncheon with Canucks President and General Manager Mike Gillis, owner Francesco Aquilini, former player Stan Smyl, head coach Alain Vigneault, and Canucks Chief Operating Officer Victor de Bonis and allowed an insight into some of the team’s operations off-the-ice.
Canucks fans are fortunate that the team is doing well on and off the ice. Because the team is doing well on-the-ice, they haven’t had a problem putting butts in seats. Because their dollars aren’t tied up in filling seats, they’re able to spread those extra dollars around to improving the fan experience.
Canucks fans are even more fortunate to have an ownership group that isn’t consumed entirely by the bottom line (in part because, with this team, it seems to take care of itself). The Canucks are in a unique situation where, after over 300 consecutive sell outs, they’re able to focus on engaging fans in what Francesco Aquilini referred to as the “virtual arena”.
What Aquilini referenced as the “virtual arena” is his way of encompassing all the fans outside of the 18,810 fans that fill Rogers Arena every night. This includes the online streaming of games and use of Twitter and Facebook. This includes Twitter giveaways for this inside and outside the arena. The virtual arena fans brings fans all across the globe from Sweden to New Zealand to the United Kingdom and even those in Vancouver together. Their goal is not only to connect fans to the game within the city, but strive to create an experience that comes a close second to being at the game.
Now while this may seem impossible, the attention to detail in every decision clearly has the fans in mind.
de Bonis made that clear when asked about the logo choices for this season: two very contrasting team symbols in the Orca and the Stick-in-Rink. He explained the choice was a way to bridge the generational gap between fans from the team’s inception, and the ones just attaching themselves to the organization.
And speaking of the team’s history, de Bonis mentioned it was a particular reason that the team picked up the Vancouver Millionaires trademark. The Millionaires were the only Vancouver team to win the Stanley Cup to-date, and despite their age still hold a relevant place in the hearts and minds of Vancouverites.
The team’s commitment to history is one that unites fans despite their generational differences. When the puck drops, they all see the same team. It was an aspect of their 40th Anniversary the Canucks felt was important and we’ve seen them integrate it into an anniversary celebration like none other we’ve experienced as Canucks fans.
By now, you would have already seen some of the aesthetic changes at Rogers Arena. The Canucks’ Blue and Green lights illuminate the concrete pillars of its friendly confines, but that’s just one step in a string of things to heighten the fan experience. Also this year, Markus Naslund’s #19 joined Trevor Linden’s #16 and Stan Smyl’s #12 in the rafters, and Orland Kurtenbach, Kirk McLean and Thomas Gradin became the first inductees onto the new Ring of Honour. They already unveiled the interactive “Hall of Heroes” in the 300 level concourse, but also, Stan Smyl shared that there was going to be another concourse addition called “Forever a Canuck”, which will include a portal with increased fan interaction and allow fans to control each section’s content.
As the questions rolled on, it was interesting to hear de Bonis comment about taking in the experiences that road teams had for their fans and picking out elements they thought were unique in their endeavor and include them in the development of the Canucks fan’s experience. With this and the promise of more Ring of Honour nights in future years, it’s easy to see Canucks management’s overwhelming commitment to the fan and it’s truly rewarding to see an organization concerned about their off-ice product as it is about their on-ice product.