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Plymouth Whalers owner Peter Karmanos throws down the attendance gauntlet

The Plymouth Whalers announced a significant number of front office shuffling today, and Michigan Hockey's Michael Caples reports that Whalers owner Peter Karmanos addressed the future of his tea...Well, I read this stuff and simply said, "Oh, boy..."

“Well to be frank about it, it’s tough running an OHL team in a major league city. Our attendance has been good, but it’s not great. You look down 401 and you see the London Knights selling out every game, you know that if you had to sell the team you might want to move it to one of those cities, rather than keep it playing here. Like I’ve said, it’s become an expensive business, it’s a big business. If we could get the attendance where we think it should be here, I think the future is great. If we continue to draw a couple thousand people a game, we’ll have to take a look at some options.

When asked what time frame he would be looking at, Karmanos continued with:

“Next year? I can’t really answer that question. We’ve stuck it out for a long time, we have one of the best franchises, if not the best, on the ice, in the OHL. But we’re operating in Hockeytown. It’s an NHL city. It’s tough. It just depends on how long all these guys want to fight the good fight. I think as the OHL grows in popularity, I think we’ll benefit in Plymouth as well. It’s a great brand of hockey, it’s fun coming to games, they’re generally on the weekend or Thursday night, which is sort of the weekend or the weekend for some people. It’s well worth the dollars that you pay for the ticket.”

After the conclusion of the formal press conference, Karmanos was asked if that was in some ways a challenge to the hockey fans in the area. He said it certainly was.

“Yeah. Not in some ways. Directly. Start coming to games.”

Caples continues, and the Free Press's George Sipple confirms that Karmanos suggested he'd be open to selling the team and/or the rink, regardless of whether doing so involves moving the team or keeping it in Plymouth.

The Whalers and the National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor are two woefully under-spotlighted hockey programs which provide Metro Detroiters with incredibly affordable and high-quality hockey on a regular basis. Even I will admit that I'm baffled as to why the Wings and Whalers don't work together to make sure that Compuware Arena's packed on the nights the Wings aren't playing, but that's just me.

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Primis's avatar

Even I will admit that I’m baffled as to why the Wings and Whalers don’t work together to make sure that Compuware Arena’s packed on the nights the Wings aren’t playing, but that’s just me.

Because Karamanos has a rivalry with Ilitch and they don’t get along.  There’s a reason they’re the Plymouth Whalers and not the Jr. Red Wings like they once were.

If Karamanos sells, the Wings might help them more, and they might be more willing to work with the Wings.  Until then Karamanos is going to have to try and continue stuff on his own.  Stubbornness is the root of it.

The US NTDP suffers because they picked a dumb place to house it.  Ann Arbor, despite all its bluster, is not really much of a hockey town when it comes right down to it.  It’s a real shame only a couple hundred people go to games to watch the best of the best in the U.S. juniors, many of whom go on to be NHLers.  They should have picked someplace without a major collegiate or pro minor presence, and despite the lack of localized branding they’d probably draw better than they do in AA.

Posted by Primis on 05/30/14 at 04:34 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Agreed with Primis. Western Wayne and Oakland are where your hockey fans are, not Ann Arbor.

But also, Karmanos is right. It is an NHL town. I work a stones throw from Compuware and almost never go there. I haven’t been to a game there in a decade. It’s just not on the radar. It can be entertaining if you like a lot of hockey fights and a cheap ticket to pretty nice arena, but generally during hockey season I’d rather watch the Wings on HDTV from my couch.

That said, now that I have a kid, in a few years when he’s (hopefully) showing some interest in hockey, Whalers games will be a godsend for us to get him exposed to the game, as they are very affordable and a five minute drive from home. So I suppose Karmanos is right to challenge me here… I’m a shitty hockey fan.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 05/30/14 at 04:38 PM ET

Speedy's avatar

I worked there,even on our off days Wings gear was not allowed.poor marketing.rarely are Whalers talked about on radio

Posted by Speedy on 05/30/14 at 04:45 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Karmonos is a terd in the world of hockey, hopefully he sells the team to someone who will be more friendly with the Wings, I might go, otherwise I avoid his terd bowl at all costs.

He tried to screw over the red wings with a huge terd like offer to Federov that started the spiraling of contracts, then years later, he’s the terdy face on a lost season because he cries that his small market can’t afford to play with the big boys even though he started the mess. And in his terdy teared comments supporting the lost season, he continously tossed the Wings and Illitch under the bus in a terd like manner.

Then to make it worse, he’s rewarded by having his terd name as the “signature” on the lost season being the first name on the Stanley Cup after the lockout.

Long story short, Peter Karmanos is a terd in hockey.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 05/30/14 at 05:17 PM ET


When I saw this one word came to mind: GREED.  The guy makes a ton of cash in other venues and ofcourse expects that it should carry over to the Plymouth Whalers.  Pretty arrogant.  Many teams have attendences of 2-3000 in the league per game.  Some AHL team do as well.  The honus is on Karmonos as owner to accept the responsibility to make it successful. His words are childish and consistent with his reputation.  Though he loves hockey, he has never been an ambassador for the game.  Just a rich guy who wanted to own some teams and turn some big cash if he could.

Posted by karlander on 05/30/14 at 07:37 PM ET

Nate A's avatar

On top of all the other problems mentioned, it might help if the arena weren’t such a terrible place too. The entrance is cramped, the arena itself looks worse than most local rinks and is very dingy, very few concessions offer limited choices, the seating is very shallow making viewing a problem, the 4(?) suites are tacky looking block boxes dropped in the middle of the grandstands at center ice, the parking lot is a huge problem getting out of after the games even with police traffic control, and there are virtually zero offsite parking options. The place isn’t even 20 years old and it feels and looks like its from the 70s.  While not the fault of the Whalers organization, dinner options in the area are highly limited as well (although better than they were just a couple years ago). It’s poor site selection and only hurts the experience.

The arena doesn’t compare to the Dow Event Center in Saginaw where the Spirit play, or certainly not to the new Spits arena in Winsor. Hell, I’ve been in local rinks that are far nicer than Compuware Arena. The only appeal watching a game in Plymouth has is good hockey at a reasonable price. That may work for most of us diehards, but its certainly not helping to bring casual fans in.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 05/31/14 at 12:33 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.