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.”