Entries with the tag: attendance
Since I’m on the west coast and I watch a lot of Pacific Division match-ups, I’ve had the opportunity to catch a variety of Phoenix Coyotes games throughout the season. Normally, this wouldn’t mean too much but it does allow me to get snapshots of how the Phoenix market is trending without getting involved on a fan level. I think we’ve all seen the pictures from early on when an announced crowd of 8,000 really seemed like about half of that. You could pause the game and literally count the number of people in a section. It was pretty brutal, to say the least.
Since the Coyotes’ ownership situation has stabilized somewhat, I’ve noticed my look-ins on the Coyotes have gradually changed in that you can actually see people in the crowd. Some games have more than others, and certainly many people are wearing the opposition’s sweaters, but butts in the seats still means butts in the seats. Here are the reported attendance figures for a 3+ week period:
From Gary Bettman’s State of the League presser before Game 1:
We believe that our franchises can all be successful where they’re currently located. And somebody could have asked me the same question that you just asked eight years ago about the Canadian franchises. They could have said; ‘Why do you have any franchises other than Toronto or Montreal?’ eight or ten years ago, because the buildings in all the other places were two-thirds to half empty.
Well, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration…but it’s not totally false. Though perhaps Bettman got his tongue tied and meant that the buildings were 2/3 full to half empty. A 2/3 empty building is pretty freakin’ empty.
Andrew’s Stars Page has attendance numbers dating back to the 1980s, and you can see that Canadian strongholds Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver went through their own lean stretches. As with most attendance woes, a lot of this was based on performance. Even for the most die-hard hockey fan, it’s hard to consistently shell out cash for a crappy product.
It’s really easy to dump on low attendance numbers in non-traditional markets. I try to refrain from doing that too much because prolonged winning and a strong grass-roots program can help build things for generations to come. Look at the number of youth hockey and minor league teams in Texas as a good example.
Nothing kills attendance more than losing. That’s a simple fact in any sport, and though I’ve wondered about the viability of the Florida Panthers and Phoenix Coyotes just like everyone else did, I try to hold off from judging until they actually have a good product on the ice. Let’s not forget that plenty of “strong” markets have ugly attendance figures when teams go sour for a number of years. Yes, this can happen even in Canada.
Florida’s been an interesting beast to watch this season. In some ways, they remind me of the 2003-04 Sharks—a team that stunk up the first few months of the season as they tried to find an identity with a mixed-bag roster before finally clicking and hitting a real groove. I haven’t caught too many Panther games this season but I watched the tail end of their comeback victory against Toronto.
I’m back from a week of non-stop holiday stress interspersed with a few hours of catching up with friends and family. Here’s a lesson I learned this year—if you’re already pressed for time due to various commitments, making two time-intensive holiday gifts is a bad idea. Only one per year from now on.
In any case, I always find year-end stuff to be a little awkward because hockey season is split into two calendar years. How does one judge what’s the biggest story of the year? Do you go with the Stanley Cup champs and ignore the start of the 08-09 season? Do you select a single incident like Sean Avery’s potty mouth? How about an ongoing fiasco like the ridiculous shenanigans happening in Tampa Bay?
No to each of those, I say. I think the biggest hockey story of 2008 is also the biggest global story of the year (no, not Sean Avery).