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The Upper Canadien

Habs hurting on the ice and in the wallet

If anyone doubted the knowledge and passion of Montreal hockey fans, here’s a statistic that will perhaps sway you. Montreal is averaging 17,018 in attendance per home game this year. That is way, way down from the 21,000+ they have drawn nightly for almost a decade. This isn’t a surprise - Montreal fans stayed away in droves during the late 90’s as well when acquisitions such as Scott Lachance and Danius Zubrus were supposed to buoy the masses - but it’s a stark, stark drop after only two weeks of play. To put it in perspective, Montreal is 17th in the NHL in attendance thus far.

This is a sign that things could get very ugly this season. Regardless of the product on the ice, if the turnstiles are moving, owners will generally sit pat.

Not when seats are empty. Especially not 4,000. And most especially not when you know that a good product will draw a full house each and every game.

For the full league statistics, as published by ESPN, link is here:

NHL Attendance

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Comments

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Interestingly enough, if you click on ESPN’s own boxscores of the 5 Canadien home games, they all show attendance as 21,273 per game -  a sellout.

So, either ESPN is too lazy/disinterested in hockey to provide the correct numbers in the boxscores, or too lazy/disinterested to add the 21, 273 total from the fifth game to their full team attendance figures.

Moral of my story - believe nothing ESPN tells you about hockey.

Posted by mc keeper on 10/25/11 at 07:51 PM ET

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Scott Gomez isn’t worried. He just sits around and counts his money.

Posted by BlackXinu on 10/25/11 at 07:53 PM ET

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I suspect the higher is sold tickets and the lower actual attendance. I’ve seen a lot more empty seats than the past ten yeas. It would make a lot of sense, and it still suggests they are losing buckets of money compared to last year.

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 10/25/11 at 08:13 PM ET

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Sold tickets is the only method by which attendance is ever actually calculated. No one physically counts spectators. It’s impossible.

It HAS to be a data entry error. 17,018 is EXACTLY 4/5 capacity at the Bell Centre. Or you can look at the listed season attendance so far (85,092) and quickly deduce that it’s 21,273 (the capacity of the Bell Centre) * 4. EXACTLY.

That’s way too much of a coincidence. mc keeper’s hypothesis is surely correct.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 10/25/11 at 08:18 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

I’ve watched quite a few games the past two weeks, and attendance looks down just about everywhere. It is shocking to see how empty some of these buildings are.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 10/25/11 at 08:53 PM ET

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It’s Montreal. If they actually failed to sell out a home game (which has not happened since the lockout, at least) it would be a major news story over here, and it’s not been.

Clearly an error.

Posted by MathMan on 10/25/11 at 09:33 PM ET

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Good job. You’re article is written based on a ESPN mistake.

They did not count the Leafs game into their calculations.

The Bell Centre seats 21,273.

21,273 x 4 = 85,092

They forgot to include the Leafs game in there.

The Habs have sold every ticket this season.

Posted by harry from Montreal, Canada on 10/25/11 at 10:56 PM ET

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Great reporting as usual.  I’m glad you rushed to post this before everyone else, while they’re all doing their “fact checking” and such, you’re bringing the hard hitting journalism that’s been missing in my Habs coverage.

Posted by LOL from Planet Earth on 10/26/11 at 12:38 AM ET

CMo44's avatar

Yes, I noticed this same error last week while looking at that link.  It has the teams that played in Europe down bottom because of it, and it says the Caps were 3rd worst - yet, once again, when you click on the individual games they are all recorded as sellouts.  Something isn’t adding up there at espn…

Posted by CMo44 on 10/26/11 at 03:40 AM ET

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Could be an error, seems low, but it’s not 21,273, and there have definitely been empty seats this year, which I haven’t seen since 2001. Regardless of the exact numbers, clearly the market is soft - although it is worth noting that in seasons past the ESPN numbers have been accurate.

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 10/26/11 at 08:39 AM ET

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Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 10/26/11 at 07:39 AM ET

Montreal has sold every ticket this season. It is 21,273. This is clear from reading the individual game reports and basic math, and also because no one but you has reported any of this. If Montreal has failed to sell out a game, as MathMen points out, it would be major news. Just because ESPN has been accurate in the past (though, short of counting the NHL-reported stats ourselves on a game-by-game basis, can we really know for sure?) doesn’t mean they can’t make a mistake, and they very obviously have made one. Missing a game’s worth of attendance is the only logical explanation for the evidence.

You may be right that there have been, in practice, empty seats. It may have something to do with the team’s poor performance to start the year (i.e., some season ticket holders choosing to stay home instead of attend every game). But will the team be in jeopardy of actually not selling out a game? Probably not, because season tix are hard to come by and most of the people who have them will simply ride out bad seasons and hold on for better times.

Either way, the only way it really hurts the Canadiens in the wallet is if only 18,000 people are buying beer and snacks, instead of 21,000. If you assume the average hockey-goer spends $10-$20 per game on the extra crap, and your arena is underfilled by 3,000 a game, that translates to only about $1.25 million - $2.5 million in lost revenue at the end of the season, probably less than what a single home playoff game would bring in.

In short, I think the Canadiens can ride the “storm.” No team has “perfect” attendance, people who buy tickets sometimes miss their games, and “actual” attendance always goes down when a team is struggling. Even Canadian ones.

With due respect, I believe you have confused this totally mundane, normal and relatively insignificant variation for an actual story, and used faulty numbers as your primary evidence.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 10/26/11 at 12:52 PM ET

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I’ve got my doubts there are any unsold seats.  My grand-uncle (grandpa’s brother) lives in Montreal and has had his name on the season ticket waiting list since the 1960’s.  That should put things in their proper perspective.

Posted by MattinSurrey on 10/26/11 at 01:46 PM ET

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I heard similar comments on the radio this am, that attendance is down and there are a LOT more empty seats than in years past. Perhaps people should also recognize the blog post was based on an ESPN number, who else is he supposed to quote? Of course the NHL reports it’s sold out. Everyone knows those numbers are bogus. If the blog can’t cite ESPN as a source without getting slammed, who can it source? Everyone chill. The Habs stink thus far, and people aren’t going as much as in years past. That’s fact!

Posted by puckman on 10/26/11 at 01:53 PM ET

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The Upper Canadien is your one stop shop for all things Montreal Canadiens. Since the summer of 2010, I've been providing Habs related news, notes, and most importantly, opinions. As a blogger, I don't believe it's my job to report the news, it's my privilege to comment on it. You may disagree with what I suggest. In fact, you most likely will. But that's the great part about blogging: it spurs opinion, comment and engages all involved. I've really enjoyed all the debate and commentary from readers thus far and I encourage everyone to respond with ideas on lineups, trades, logos, sweaters, mascots, whatever. The Upper Canadien is a conversation for all hockey fanatics.

I've come to Kukla's Korner with four years of campus radio and three years of sportswriting from my time at Mount Allison University on Canada's East coast. Not only do I not have any professional journalistic training, after five years in the corporate world, I've spent much of the past two years completing an MBA. Business by day, hockey by night, I'm a Canadiens fan through and through. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing.

Questions or comments? theuppercanadien@kuklaskorner.com