SBD/Issue 145/Franchises

Enthusiasm Builds Over Blue Jackets' First Playoff Appearance

Blue Jackets GM Says Playoffs Add Credibility
To Franchise, Help Win Fans' Trust Back
The excitement over the Blue Jackets-Red Wings Stanley Cup Playoffs series starting tonight at Joe Louis Arena "may be more palpable in Columbus" than Detroit, as the Blue Jackets are making their first playoff appearance, according to Bill McGraw of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The standard explanation for the "relative nonchalance in Hockeytown is that the Wings getting in the playoffs has become as predictable each spring as the potholes returning to Orchard Lake Road." McGraw notes you could "scan the radio dial Wednesday and pick up nothing on the Red Wings' playoff opener," and you could "walk up to the Joe Louis box office and ask about tickets for tonight's game and the man would tell you, 'We've got a little bit at every price'" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/16). The GLOBE & MAIL's Tim Wharnsby writes the timing of the Blue Jackets' first playoff appearance "could not have been better," as the franchise "had seen attendance dip substantially last fall to crowds of under 12,000." Now, there is a "buzz in the air." Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson: "I know some said that if we didn't make the playoffs this year, the franchise was going to die. I never believed that. But the playoffs add credibility to the franchise and (help) winning that trust back. The fans have been disappointed and were somewhat cynical because they had been disappointed too often." Blue Jackets TV analyst Danny Gare: "This is a market that started out real well, probably because of the newness of it. ... The notoriety wore off. They had to make changes to make the playoffs" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/16). The Blue Jackets also saw significant gains during the second half playoff run, as home attendance jumped 15.9% for the 22 homes games after January 11. The chart below lists average attendance for the franchise since it began play in the '00-01 season (THE DAILY).

BLUE JACKETS AVERAGE ATTENDANCE TREND
SEASON
ATTENDANCE
NHL RANK
'08-09
15,543
25th
'07-08
14,823
28th
'06-07
16,401
19th
'05-06
16,796
17th
'04-05
Season Canceled
'03-04
17,369
15th
'02-03
17,744
11th
'01-02
18,136
8th
'00-01
17,457
12th

SIGN OF THE TIMES: The GLOBE & MAIL's Matthew Sekeres notes the Canucks "did not announce a sell out as per usual" for last night's Blues-Canucks Western Conference quarterfinal game one. The GM Place atmosphere was "excellent, but some sections of the lower bowl may not have been too flattering on television." The weekday game "clearly ... was a difficult sell" in this economic climate, as ticket prices "soared 40[%] on average, and 60[%] in some of the high-end seats, some priced at $382" (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 4/16).

BREAKING THE HAB-IT? In Montreal, Anne Sutherland noted the Canadiens-Bruins Eastern Conference quarterfinal series starts tonight, but "unlike last year, souvenir shops and other magnets for fans are doing lackadaisical business" in Montreal. At The Habs Zone at Bell Centre Tuesday, there were "few customers" (Montreal GAZETTE, 4/15).

DON'T GIVE UP: In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi reports NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who last night attended game one of the Flyers-Penguins quarterfinal series, "downplayed speculation of troubled franchises" in the U.S. and "preached patience regarding" the Coyotes. Bettman: "What everybody can learn from the Pittsburgh situation is don't take a snapshot, don't speculate and don't write off franchises, because when things are looking bleak, it doesn't mean that franchises, when you solve their problems, can't be fixed and saved" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/16).

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