If you haven’t heard, the Ottawa Senators — a National Hockey League franchise based in Canada, the birthplace of the sport, a country that believes it’s its birthright to have teams in every outpost from St. John’s to Yellowknife — played a second-round playoff game in front of a non-sellout crowd last night.
The capacity of Canadian Tire Centre? 18,572. Last night’s attendance? 16,744.
Now, we here in Carolina probably shouldn’t be throwing stones from our glass house, what with average attendance for Hurricanes games at PNC Arena this season an abysmal 11,776. But the Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs in eight years. Fans tend to lose interest when the local team can’t get out of its own way.
Sounds like an excuse? Excuses are for losers, right? Tell that to the Ottawa Citizen’s Wayne Scanlan.
Welcome to the world of mini-game packs and slack season ticket sales in a grumpy government town.
Senators fans have the luxury of picking their spots when it comes to attending playoff hockey games and are exercising that right.
Excuse me? “Picking their spots?” In the second round of the damn playoffs?
For civil servants with Phoenix pay issues that might mean going next year instead.
Fine. If you don’t have the money to go, no one’s going to begrudge you.
Now that the Senators are a two-round team, fans will have had the opportunity (or expense), by the end of this round, to see one of a half-dozen home games — there were three home dates in the Boston series. As someone in the press box quipped, “Too many games in April.” This was a November lament.
This is actually a complaint that the team is playing extra home games. What a world we live in. Show of hands: how many folks around here would complain about the extra expense of a Hurricanes playoff run?
Higher playoff pricing or not, Ottawa is one of the great bargains of the NHL. Of the remaining eight contending teams, the Senators offer the cheapest tickets this side of Anaheim, where the Ducks have to keep their prices down to be attractive in a non-hockey market.
Just can’t avoid the swipe at the Sun Belt, can you, Wayne?
Senators fans have become a discerning bunch. It’s who they are.
So are Hurricanes fans, but that certainly can’t be the case anywhere south of Fort Erie, where unsold seats draw a direct line to the local U-Haul rental facility. Gotta get that team up into Canada, where the fans truly care!
Empty seats can deliver a powerful message from consumers. But now is not the time.
So when is the time?
The players on the 2016-17 Senators have earned better support at their rink. Surely it’s coming.
Or else what? The team isn’t going anywhere, right? Right????????
Look, this isn’t a “ha ha, Sens fans are dumb” column. Really, it isn’t. If they don’t want to go because of whatever reason, that’s their business and no one else’s.
I’ve been to a few games in Ottawa. I love Ottawa. In many ways, it’s analogous to Raleigh: government town, great universities, awful traffic, some wonderful parks (Ilya Bryzgalov, take note), and an arena that’s out in the suburbs. If I were told tomorrow that I was moving to Ottawa, I’d be thrilled.
But it’s awful convenient that what are petty excuses when applied to certain teams that don’t have the imprimatur of Canadian media become simple explanations when the spotlight’s on them. You think Martin Maguire’s doing a radio show in Montreal today saying that the Senators don’t deserve to exist because they can’t draw fans to a second-round playoff game?
Of course he isn’t. So why are things different here?
Oh yeah, I forgot: we’re talking about a Proven Hockey Town with a Long History of Supporting Its Team.
By the way, the last time the Canes made it to the second round of the playoffs in 2009, here were the attendance numbers: 18,680 (sellout); 18,878 (standing room only); 18,680 (sellout).
This league’s media is so damn territorial it doesn’t even realize when it’s showing itself right in front of its face. If attendance is a non-issue because of reasons A, B, and C in this case, then that standard needs to apply everywhere. And when it doesn’t - because, let’s be honest, it won’t - feel free to bump this column right back up to the top of the page.
No, the Senators aren’t relocating to Iqaluit. And neither are the Hurricanes. Enough already.