By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips are doing their best Joe Namath impersonation.
And while Everett’s guarantee may not be quite as bold as Namath’s famous Super Bowl III declaration, the Tips are putting their money where their mouths are.
Everett signaled a commitment to returning to a winning tradition by issuing a guarantee to renewing season ticket holders, offering a partial refund should the Tips fail to reach a certain level of success.
“We’re going to become a more exciting and better hockey club, and we want to assure the fans that they’re not just spending money hoping that we’re going to get better.” said Tips assistant general manager Zoran Rajcic, who oversees the team’s business operations. “The plan right now, and the changes that have been made in the organization, we didn’t want it to be lip service. If that’s what we believe we’re going to do, let’s show the people and give them the opportunity to believe as well.”
The refund is being offered to season ticket holders who renew by the March 4 deadline. If the Tips don’t finish as high as sixth place next season, those renewing season ticket holders will receive a $100 refund for each seat from a full season ticket, or a $50 refund for each seat from a partial season ticket.
The guarantee then takes another step up for the 2014-15 season. If Everett doesn’t finish as high as fourth that season, renewing season ticket holders will receive the same $100 or $50 refund.
The $100 refund is approximately 20 percent of the price of an average season ticket.
The guarantee was informally announced during last week’s town hall meeting with season ticket holders.
“This isn’t so much for people coming on new as much as for the people who have been with us since day one, or even the past season,” Rajcic said. “We’re saying we’re going to be a better hockey club. They’re starting to see small signs of it, but this is more of a long-term thing.”
There hasn’t been a lot of on-ice success for the Tips the past few years. Although Everett has made the playoffs in all nine of its previous seasons of existence, the Tips have squeaked into the eighth and last playoff spot in the Western Conference each of the past two years. This season Everett is currently in seventh place in the Western Conference and engaged in another battle to get into the postseason. The Tips haven’t won a playoff series since 2007.
The lull resulted in a shakeup in the organization. Longtime general manager Doug Soetaert was dismissed last February and replaced by Garry Davidson. Then head coach Mark Ferner was fired last month, with Davidson taking over behind the bench on an interim basis.
These tumultuous years came after Everett won the U.S. Division title in three of its first four seasons of existence.
Everett’s attendance remains solid, but it has fallen slightly since its heights five years ago, when the Tips were averaging nearly 6,000 fans per game. Solidifying the season ticket base was part of the motivation for issuing the guarantee.
“That was part of the thought process,” Rajcic confirmed. “If people say, ‘We won’t renew tickets next year, but will renew them when the team gets better,’ what we’re saying is to believe in us, and if you’re a true fan here’s what we’re willing to do for you. We haven’t heard a ton of complaints about being overpriced or anything like that. But from a season ticket holder’s perspective it’s probably been four seasons since it’s been really, really exciting.”
Though Everett is not a contender this season, there’s hope for the future. The Tips are the youngest team in the WHL’s Western Conference, with the core of the roster made up of 16- and 17-year-olds. Therefore, Everett is expected to improve in the coming seasons. But Rajcic said the current roster makeup wasn’t the impetus behind the guarantee.
“We didn’t look so much at the roster, but if we’re not going to become a better than sixth-place team, then the changes that have been made here I think have been made for the wrong reasons,” Rajcic said. “Our business plan is to finish in the top four (in the conference) every year and have home-ice advantage (in the first round of the playoffs). That’s part of our mission statement as a business, and we’ve slipped from that the last couple years. We lost sight of that a little bit, and we’ve lost some season ticket holders. So now we’re saying we want to show the season ticket holders we believe in what we’re trying to do here now, and we’re going to put a guarantee behind it.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.