Canadian NHL Teams Struggling To Sell Out At Start Of Season
Every seat in every Canadian NHL arena "had been paid for and occupied" for years following the '04-05 lockout, but that is "no longer the case," according to Ken Campbell of THE HOCKEY NEWS. The Oilers on Wednesday night beat the Flyers 6-3 "in front of more than 1,000 empty seats at Rogers Place." It marked the "first time in 550 straight games that the Oilers failed to sell out a home game," including both the regular season and playoffs. The Jets' 4-2 loss to the Coyotes one day earlier "attracted 14,764, which is almost 600 under capacity, marking the first time in 333 home regular-season and playoff games that they have failed to sell out Bell MTS Place." An "early blast of winter that left thousands without power and under a state of emergency could have been a factor." However, that would not explain the "inability to sell tickets" before the storm hit. Meanwhile, the Flames had "almost 1,500 empty seats for their game against the Flyers" on Tuesday and the Canadiens were "almost 1,000 below capacity" for their 3-1 loss to the Lightning. The Canucks played the Red Wings on Tuesday and were "almost 700 short of capacity." That comes on top of the Senators' "well-documented attendance problems in recent years" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 10/18).
NOT TIME TO PANIC: In Winnipeg, Mike McIntyre noted the fact that the Jets "failed to pack" Bell MTS Place on Tuesday for the first since their relocation from Atlanta in '11 is an "interesting development." However, it is one that True North Sports & Entertainment "expected, even if it might be catching plenty of observers by surprise." True North VP/Communications & Content Rob Wozny said, "As it's our ninth season in the NHL, it's anticipated that occasionally some games will not be sell-out crowds." McIntyre noted having less than 600 unsold seats is "hardly a reason to hit the panic button," as a "look around the entire NHL shows only a handful of teams" have attendance at 100% or better. With an "average crowd now of 15,138," the Jets are still at 98.7% capacity through three games. They "continue to have a sold-out season ticket base, and any unsold seats are among those that are left available for for single-game sales." One difference this year is that fans are starting to "hear and see more promotions than ever for purchasing tickets, including mini-packs, along with Tweets from the official team site declaring good seats still available sometimes just a few hours before faceoff" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 10/18). Despite the internal expectations that each game might not sell out, the Jets increased ticket prices 5% this year, the "new maximum increase in the ticket contracts, and it seems the Jets are going the max every time" (WINNIPEG SUN, 10/17).
OTTAWA IN TOUGH SPOT: SPORTSNET.ca's Wayne Scanlan noted the Oct. 10 Blues-Senators game drew just 9,204 fans, making it the "smallest crowd since the Senators moved" to Canadian Tire Centre in '96. Crowds for subsequent games against the Lightning and the Wild were "better, but only slightly, at 11,023 for the Lightning and 11,500 for the matinee with the Wild." After four home dates, Ottawa "ranks 30th of 31 teams in overall attendance with an average gate of 11,715." Only the Islanders, "with no fixed address, rank below Ottawa at 11,320 per game after five home dates." With season ticket sales at an "all-time low (a source says as low as 3,500), attendance is going to be a concern" for the Senators all season. There is a "segment of the fan base that has vowed they won't go to games unless Eugene Melnyk sells the team." The recent departures of D Erik Karlsson, RW Mark Stone and C Matt Duchene "turned off a lot of fans and it may require a change at the highest level before fans buy into the vision of a major rebuild" (SPORTSNET.ca, 10/18).