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Blue Jackets Links

If you win, they will come. Maybe. ... hopefully?

Thursday, October 11, 2007
After falling shy of a sell-out on opening night for the first time, the Blue Jackets saw attendance drop like a rock for their second home game of the season last night, when the Coyotes came in to town. The announced attendance, as you can see from ESPN's recap of the game, was 11,944 ... or about 66% of capacity.

Even before this season started, there had been signs that attendance was going to dip, even with the ouster of Doug MacLean as a peace offering to the fans, and the installment of more business savvy Mike Priest as Team President. Season ticket renewal, if I recall from reading The Columbus Dispatch during the off-season, was around 85%, which ultimately meant around 11,000 season tickets had been sold for this season. Now, I don't know if that only refers to PSLs or both PSLs and half-season plans.

This makes me wonder about a few things. First and foremost, are the Blue Jackets now announcing attendance as the actual attendance at the arena, as compared to tickets distributed or tickets sold? If there are around 11,000 season ticker holders, it's really hard for me to believe that only about 1,000 more tickets were sold or distributed for last night's Phoenix game. I recall that the Phoenix game from February I referred to in my last post had an announced attendance of 13,825 ... but honestly, having been to both that game and last night's game, this game definitely had more people in the seats and around the arena.

Second of all, was this a sign of fan discontent, or just the average sports fan in Columbus -- and areas of Ohio surrounding C-Bus -- being preoccupied with other things? The Buckeyes, for example, are probably drawing more fans (as if they need any more ...) and more of the average sports fan's cash right now because they're beating the odds. People love it when a team that has lower expectations beat the odds ... and even though the Blue Jackets are doing just that three games in, Buckeye dominance in Columbus and their rising up the BCS rankings trumps that.

Then you have the Cleveland Indians, who despite being about two hours north, will still be keeping some people in Columbus saving their money to possibly make the trip to see an actual playoff team. Beyond that, you also have the usual reasons for a low draw: it was a Wednesday night in the middle of the week, and regardless of the fact that Wayne Gretzky is a household name, it's still the Phoenix Coyotes.

But I'm not going to hit the panic button or anything. Even though Wednesday's game was a bomb as it pertains to attendance, it's still early. How will things pan out when, say ... Detroit comes to town on November 18th? Or the Ducks once more? Or how about the Stars next Wednesday?

In summary, there's really no need to panic ... not yet, at least. The Jackets' organization probably knew that this would be a rough year, not only on the ice, but probably also off the ice as well, as it pertained to attendance, and revenue as well due to said attendance. With pundits from all sides of the hockey media world predicting almost a universal second-to-last place finish in the Western Conference, expectations had to be low.

But it's always darkest before the dawn. So just wait, folks. Even if the Jackets don't make the playoffs this season, so long as they continue to bring the hammer down on teams that come in to Nationwide, the fans will come.

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  • At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Sarah said…

    I was thinking about the attendance issues recently...

    Obviously, winning is the biggest thing they need to do to bring the crowds back. The novelty has long since worn off; no amount of cannons or dancing fat guys or free thunderstix or whatever is going to draw people in consistently as much as having a good team. I think everybody in the organ-i-zation recognizes that.

    What I really think is key in the medium term (i.e., the rest of this season) is that they've got to be sitting in one of the top eight spots when the college football season ends. Right now, it's going to be damn hard for them to penetrate the collective consciousness of Columbus with the Bucks ranked #1 (and the Indians on the verge of a World Series appearance). But once OSU's season is over, there's that window of opportunity to get people to say, "hey, this team is worth going to see."

    The past two seasons, even though the team was relatively competitive in the second half, the poor start had effectively rendered them out of the playoff race by the time the last "O-H-I-O!" echoed around the 'Shoe. And that killed any real chance of rebuilding some of the fan interest that the lockout + 7 losing seasons had dampened. People who aren't necessarily big hockey fans won't turn up in big numbers in March to see them play for pride and a worse draft pick.

    I still think the team is probably a year away from the playoffs, but if they can just play well enough to be sitting there at #8 come January, I think attendance will pick up. If they're sitting at #11, even if not "mathematically eliminated," I think it will continue to be a struggle and we'll see more crowds like last Wednesday.

    All that said, I suck at life, because I'm staying home to watch tonight's game on TV.

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About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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