Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
In the modern day sport marketplace, professional sport teams face tough competition to build and sustain a viable fan base. This study sought to address three research questions: (a) what are the factors that contribute to the socialization of sports fans in niche sport markets? (b) How do team-led and fan-led initiatives work to socialize fans? Finally, (c) to what extent do the socialization factors affect identify as a sports fan for a niche sport and overall fan consumption behavior? A questionnaire was administered to 535 NHL fans and data were analyzed through conducting an Exploratory Factor Analysis, Exploratory Factor Analysis and Structural Equation Modeling. The most notable findings revealed that influences from family or media exposure did not play a factor in the socialization of these fans, signaling the uniqueness of Sunbelt regional marketplace and a departure from traditional beliefs. Discussions are focused on interpreting theoretical and practical implications for socializing individuals into being hockey fans, growing professional hockey, projecting sustainable development, and providing a framework for other sport leagues.