When Silence Isn't Golden

With the NHL on the verge of scrubbing the 2012 season altogether, Vancouver's pro sports fans will have had nowhere to park their entertainment dollars since late October, when the Whitecaps closed out last season. The CFL won't be starting up for another six months, so you'd think the Vancouver Whitecaps would be seizing the opportunity to cash in on the perfect storm - but the silence from the footballers of another kind has been deafening.

Let's face it... in the Vancouver sports market, the Vancouver Whitecaps are the bronze medalists of the local sports market, somewhat behind the B.C. Lions, and a very distant third in the dust trail left behind the Vancouver Canucks.

So what are the Caps doing about closing that gap? After all, the NHL is rapidly falling out of favour in even the best of hockey markets, and the B.C. Lions are still nursing wounds suffered when they got bounced out of Grey Cup contention. It's the prefect time to fill the void that greed and overconfidence have left behind. From a marketing perspective, the answer to the question above seems be: absolutely nothing.

Perhaps the Caps figuring to be the only (pro) game in town, and that by default they'll lap up the leftovers like so much turkey dinner and cranberry sauce. But no team ever reaped great reward - on or off the field - by sitting on its collective butt. Yet, that seems to be the bet that the Whitecaps FC are making for the coming Major League Soccer season.

Oh, there's been some personnel movement...mostly cleaning out the cobwebs, some re-jigging on the women's side, and oh yeah the now-infamous pre-Christmas chow down between Davide Chiumiento and Martin Rennie, but with the fast-approaching season only some 10 weeks away or so, there's been scarcely a peep out of the Caps to generate any kind of interest among sports fans in terms of reallocating entertainment dollars for 2013.

Maybe there's some kind of "gentlemen's agreement" in place between the big three here, and perhaps that goes out the window completely if UFC 456 Fehr vs Bettman results in no hockey for another year. Even if the NHL labour dispute is ended, I wonder how many fans have already passed their own personal "drop dead" deadlines. We'll have to see how everything plays out.

Frankly, I'm surprised that a club with such lofty aspirations - and, last season, a reasonable degree of success - would settle for soaking up the spillage instead of actively trying to siphon off a little something from the tanks of their competitors in the Vancouver sports market.

As the marketing blurb says on the back collar of their kits: "Since 1974." That's just shy of 40 years the Caps have been around under one name or another. The committed soccer fans are already aboard the good ship Blue-and-White...and have been for a long time already. The only way the Whitecaps are going to "grow" their slice of the pro sports pie in Vancouver is by enticing wallets away from hockey and football.

There was a time in Vancouver when you couldn't give Canucks tickets away. And a return to those days might just be looming on the distant horizon. And the Vancouver Whitecaps could well be the beneficiaries - if they choose to measure success against how many they can draw to B.C. Place, and not how many times they can sell out just the lower bowl.

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