Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Pot Turns Black....

The Citizen is running with a story today built on facts obtained in an internal NHL report that states the Senators are now in an elite company with the Phoenix Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning. In the standings? Nope.

In reduced ticket sales.

There have been the usual fretting over some empty seats at Scotiabank Place this season but this report really spells out the drop experienced by the Senators.

"As of the end of November, the Senators’ paid ticket sales had dropped by almost 4,000 per game, according to the NHL report. Through the first two months of the season, the Senators had sold 14,023 tickets per game, down from 17,927 last year.

The 22.8-per-cent drop is third-highest in the league, behind only the Phoenix Coyotes and the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the 30-team league, the Senators have fallen from seventh place in paid attendance to 19th.

The Senators’ reported attendance has not fallen as far — only about seven percent — because the number of free tickets issued by the team has increased dramatically."

Those are usually statistics listed off by Canadian hockey fans in an argument to move southern U.S. teams into towns like Hamilton and Winnipeg. The jokes were endless about teams not even able to give away free tickets to get bums in the seats in Florida and Georgia and Phoenix.

Have Ottawa fans become the pot calling the kettle black? Looks that way.

There are many reasons stated as to why the Senators have been having attendance issues: missing the playoffs, location of arena, the recession, too many home games at the start of the season, the Dany Heatley fiasco, and argued by me, the extremely negative attitudes of the press towards certain individual players which "poisoned the well" in the community.

Regardless of which combination of issues you deem to be the culprit, it looks like the Senators are being pro-active and realizing that there's a problem which must be fixed. President Cyril Leeder has come out and offered free parking to 5 year season ticket subscribers and that some seating will be cheaper next year, but really, that's not going to be enough to turn the tide.

It's clear that the NHL and the Senators have pushed the pricing point of tickets past the point that the market can bear. Prices will have to be seriously reduced across the board while the NHL looks for ways to bring in more money from alternate sources and finally get away from being a gate-driven league, much like modern record companies are adapting to the fact that no one buys CD's anymore.

It looks to me like expansion and the easy money it generates is on the way to the NHL.


No one has ever seen anything like it in the NHL. How does a team recover in 24 hours from having all their equipment destroyed in a freak fire?

That's the situation that the travelling Minnesota Wild find themselves in prior to tonight's game in Ottawa against the Senators. And a lot of the Wild players seem to be quite upset with their destroyed equipment, much of it meticulously tailored to their needs and often very nostalgic for superstitious hockey players.

Michael Russo who covers the Wild beat has a good point here:

"There's lot of concern about playing in new equipment. It's not just a feel thing (it takes players weeks to break in equipment), but a safety thing. Knee braces and stuff like that were destroyed. How do you just throw a new knee brace on a player without making sure it fits properly?"

The Ottawa Sun also has a few revealing quotes from the players who will actually have to don all-new gear:

“I’m picky about gloves. I’ve got to wear gloves for a long time before I can play in them,” said forward Andrew Brunette. “My shoulder pads, I’ve had since bantam hockey, so if those are gone, I’ll be screwed. I’ve worn one pair of shoulder pads forever.

“We spend two weeks trying to break in skates,” [Martin Havlat] said. “I’ve never heard of anything like this in my life. When I first heard about it, I thought it was some kind of a joke.”


Anonymous said...

Take the BLACK AMEX to Hockey Life down the road. As for knee braces, don't these teams employ medical staff? Aren't they on call 24-7? As I recall, there is a year wait period in this province to get an MRI but Spezza gets one within 12 hours of a knee injury. I'm pretty sure they'll be ok, except for a little discomfort in some brand new digs.

Blood Red Army said...

Did Andrew Brunette hit puberty at age 9? Or is he wearing ridiculously small shoulder pads? Either way...

Really sucks for them. Hopefully they don't rally around it and destroy the Sens tonight.

Andrew said...

I know I've avoided picking up any Sens tickets this year because I feel they're overpriced, especially when you throw in parking and the exorbitant cost of a beer and snack on top.

The "premium game" model of pricing really burns me too.

I used to attends 3-6 games per year.... last year though I only went to one, and this year I have zero scheduled. (On the other hand, I went to two Blue Jays games in Toronto this year.... even factoring in the cost of getting there from my home in Ottawa the price was comparable!)

phil said...

i'd love it if hockey stadiums were treated like european football grounds - cram the 'away' fans into one or two sections and then surround them with this:

i know it doesn't really work in north american sport, but it'd sure as hell cut down on the 'ol├ęs' and 'goleafsgos'..

Anonymous said...

That article was a shocker. It was pretty clear that attendance was dropping, but I didn't know it was that bad.

If they are giving away 3000 tickets a game, who are they giving them to? That's close to 20% of the building riding as free-loaders.

If you look at the press coverage of the Sens over the last year, there is very little criticism directed at management. It's time that the mainstream media start asking Sens management why the product they're producing sucks. Why can't they put together a product that people are willing to pay to see? Do they even know what people want to see?

How about "Bryan, why is your team so boring to watch?"

The hockey gods work in strange ways. Mike Brodeur was suppose to get the start tonight. It probably should have been a sure win for Minny.

The hockey gods intervened and burned Minny's equipment. Minny's biggest competitive advantage is their stud goaltender Backstrom. The hockey gods burned all of his gear.

I say the hockey gods want Mike Brodeur to get a win.

Anonymous said...

Glen Kulka was removed from the morning program. How this guy made it to radio despite his harsh voice is a complete mystery to me. Good riddance kulkster !! Now all you need a smooth guy like Ian Mendes here to temper Versace.

Michael said...

One word on reduced ticket sales:


Master Of Puppets said...

Kudos to Mike on dropping the N word. After losing a nice 72K per annum engineering job at Nortel, taking nearly 4 years to get back to 54K with the feds and struggling to feed kids and pay for their activities plus usual bills takes a hit on the old disposable cash situation. Buying Sens tickets fell off the purchase list. Hell, six months ago I cut out my weekly coffee at Tim's.

The high tech crash and burn, spearheaded by the Titanic sinking of Nortel has probably put a dent in luxury entertainment spending, that and Oh the recent economic crisis.

But that one has been felt all over. There's where the size of the metropolitan area is a factor - a population of 2-3Mil would probably not see as large a ticket sale decline.

The situation should improve. The Sens making a playoff run would not hurt either ...

(I like this - the word verification on this post is 'batords')

Anonymous said...

Good post by Master of Puppets.

In addition to the poor econ conditions the TEAM ISN'T very good, and I for one am absolutely proud of the fact that people in Ottawa will not go to see this crap team.

Yep, stupid leaf fans continue to support their crap team - but people in Ottawa at least know when to send the owner a message hitting with a tweet to his pocket book.

Don't go back Sens fans, don't pay those prices - not until they fire Murray and hire a real GM. Maybe Steve Yzerman??

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon @ 10:44am.

It's a good thing that attendance drops when the team sucks and is boring to boot.

It keeps the management guys honest.

I liked when Rod Bryden stuck to his guns when Yashin held out for more money. It was an unconventional thing for an owner to do at the time. But, he was right on principle. I was proud to be a Sens fan then.

Now, the management guys have screwed up and the fans are letting them know it. That's the way it should be. I'm proud to be a Sens fan this time as well.