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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Maybe they were right...


You all know I try to keep it as real as I can on this blog both good and bad. Well as significant as the win was last night I still can't get over just how bad the turnout was.

Let's set the scene once again shall we?

The Jackets are hangin onto 6th place after a rough two game stretch against the Blues.

They are in their first real dog fight for a post season birth in their 8 year on ice history.

Their biggest rival, the Nashville Predators, are up next.

Those same Nashville Predators trail the Blue Jackets by just 2 points in a tough Western Conference. If the Jackets lose they could tumble to 7th place and are only two points out of a playoff position all together.

Out of the 4 games played between these two teams heading into that game, both teams won their games on home ice.

This game was of monumental importance to the Jackets playoff chances.

It was without a doubt, the biggest game in Jackets history.

....and how does Columbus respond? If you want to judge it by attendance it was not good.. not good at all. In a building that "officially" sells out at just above 18k only 14,400 showed up.

Now let me say that for those that did come out they were loud, boisterous, passionate and on the edges of their seats all game. They were terrific.

Still it doesn't change the fact that with only 6 games to go with the stakes as high as they were the Jackets couldn't come close to selling out such an important game. We are talking 3k short.

..and as excited as I was about the win it absolutely depressed the hell outta me that the turnout was as poor as it was. It was a painful reality check that perhaps this thing is not blowing up as much as we all thought (or hoped) it would.

Now I've been in the "if we win, they will come camp" ever since attendance started to significantly fall. I've said I don't care if your the OSU football Buckeyes with all their history and tradition, if they were as bad as we were for 7 straight years attendance even their attendance would take a hit.

Last night's turnout was very concerning for a guy like myself who wants nothing more than to see hockey thrive in this market. Sure we can throw excuses out there like the bad economy, it's a week night.. heck I even read from someone who said Tuesday's are a bad night because folks stay home to watch American Idol.

Hogwash.

The bottom line was this was the biggest game in the Jackets history with major playoff implications and folks stayed home by the thousands.

When people challenge the validity of Columbus as a hockey market I've always said that I'll reserve judgement until this team starts winning. If attendance doesn't rise then there will be cause for concern.

I'm here to tell you today that after last night I"m concerned.

If/when this team does make the playoffs those games will be instant sell outs. It will be the trendy thing to do. However once the appeal of the playoffs wears off where does that leave us?

Like it or not this is a business and if people won't come out and fork over the dough to see a winner and significant games, which they didn't last night, you better believe ownership is going to be rethinking their investement.

Sorry for such a dreary post in what should be an exciting time for hockey fans in this market.

Maybe I'm over-reacting.

Maybe it was a freak anomaly.

Then again, maybe they were right that Columbus is and will always be just a big college football town.

Fire away - would love to hear your thoughts regarding last night's turnout. Are you concerned?

-LTL

23 comments:

Brian said...

I agree with you totally and I was one of the people that suggested "The Economy" to you last night.

TV ratings are way up in Columbus - at least they were a month ago when that was a hot topic for the dispatch.

That should correlate to interest being up as well. Maybe people are using the picture in picture to watch Idol and the CBJ.

But you are absolutely right that this is a business and in the NHL it is the paying customer at the game that pays the freight.

Max said...

LTL, to be honest, I'm not as worried as you. I think we've got to look at a couple factors here:

1) This past weekend- After the crappy effort this team gave on Saturday and Sunday, I think people might have been bracing for a flop.

2) As sickening as this is, American Idol does have an impact on sports attendance figures. It's called DVR people!

3) It was a middle of the week game. I'm lucky, I didn't work after school. Had I been at work, I would not have been in my seat. I'm sure there's a few others in my situation.

4) The economy is pretty crappy. People are scared.

Just think, LTL, two or 3 times this season NWA has been over 19,000. Last night was nothing to worry about. Be positive, fella!

LTL said...

I'd love to get an update on where the ratings are at now. You would certainly think that the higher ratings would translate into attendance being up.

I wasn't expecting a sellout last night but I really thought there would be 16 to 17k representing.

It's a shame as this team deserves our support with the year they are having.

-LTL

JAL said...

LTL --

If you read my game wrapup from last night, I had very similar sentiments about the crowd, though I am not as concerned long term.

Central Ohio fans are front runners. Period. The minute the going gets tough, they get going -- in the other direction. Again, over the weekend, the Bluejackets played two bad period of hockey. In St. Louis, they mounted a great charge and came away with a critical point. On Sunday, nothing left after some stupid mistakes.

That was enough to drive the fair weather fans back under their umbrellas. That's fine. Stay away. There will be enough converts to make up that few thousand after a run at the playoffs, another draft and Howson making another move or two in the off season.

The future is bright, and more people are starting to get the message. It is just a lot slower than it should be.

--JAL
A Shot From The Point

LTL said...

Thanks for the post Max (as always). I was hoping to generate some good dicussion with this and we are off to a great start.

I thought about those sellouts as well and did a little digging:

Sat Dec 27th - Philly - 18402
Sat Jan 31st - Dallas - 18049
Sat Feb 7th - SJ - 18144
Fri Feb 13th - Detroit - 18802
Sat Feb 21st - Anaheim - 18628
Thu Mar 12th - Pitt - 19167
Sun Mar 15th - Detroit - 18685

So that is 6 sellouts and 1 near sellout.

4 came on Sat. 2 on Sun. 1 each on Wed and Fri.

I think we can safely say that in terms of the Detroit and Pitt games their fans boosted our numbers.

The others were Jackets fans for the most part I think.

Obviously Saturday games are significant for gate draws.

Tuesdays are historically bad and it certainly showed last night.

Still for a game with that kind of impact you'd think it would be a better draw which raised a big red flag for me.

Fans have to get out and support a winner though, especially at this stage of the season, as owners aren't going to just keep bleeding red.

All that said I think we'll see a good crowd sunday and a sell out for the final home game against Minny which falls on a Saturday.

-LTL

LTL said...

Good post JAL. You guys are cheering me up!

-LTL

Wally said...

We've gone to a dozen or so games this year and just signed up for a 20 game package for next year.

Witnessing the good and bad all year, and taking a leap of faith for next year, I have to say I still don't trust this team. We briefly discussed going to the game last night, but after writing a $2500 check to the IRS last week and witnessing such dismal performances over the weekend, I just wouldn't open myself up (or my wallet) for more heartbreak. We love this team, but we also love food on the table & a roof over our head.

Until further notice, I'll blame the economy & the fine aura of despair that surrounds it.

Andrew said...

The TV ratings are up for games in Columbus, you would have to wonder if that correlates to more bodies watching the games on television than bothering coming to the arena....




BHG

Stephen said...

I agree about the poor turnout. I was disappointed. I hope its an economic thing, and next year improves.

I would still rather have 15k passionate fans, than the 20k fans who bitch and moan (like they do to the football team) when they don't play well. Too many fair weather fans in this town.

I also think the crowd was hesitant, especially after the 1-0 deficit. Once we hit the 3rd period the crowd was rockin!

J Arthur Ellis said...

Perhaps the near-certainty of playoffs contributed; because of the economy, people aren't going so that they can afford playoff tickets.

Dan said...

I'm not so concerned. It's Tuesday, and a down economy, and all the rest. The "buzz" effect is taking hold and making an impact (my g/f works in season ticket sales, her commissions are way up) but it's not the kind of thing that has an immediate 100% impact. It grows. Before you'll see sell-outs on a consistent basis, even on Tuesdays, you'll have to see a culture of success - not just one winning season. That said, we are seeing some effect now. How many people do you think would have shown up for game 77 with last year's record? 11K?

Dan said...

How many people would have shown up for that game with last year's record? My girlfriend works in season ticket sales, trust me, the "buzz" is taking hold. It was a Tuesday. Although Nashville is a competitive rival, they're not a geographic rival or storied franchise like the Habs or Rangers. And the economy... Just give it time.

Dan said...

sorry about the double post, I got an error message the first time.

Rick said...

LTL, you have to look at it this way. The team has a bad game and the fans have a bad night (attendance). Blips on the radar. Remember, not all fans are as "Nuts" as we ar; they don't understand the significance of games like last night yet. It will come. The culture of negativity is slowly changing around this franchise.

Barga said...

http://msn.foxsports.com/id/5839492

currently the raitings are at 1.75, which is quite high compared to previous averages. Tuesdays are a slow night (specially for students) and so combined with the raitings i don't see any problem

wait for the game sunday to see

Barga said...

sorry, didn't link that:

fox sports ohio raitings

Beau said...

I was at game last night, but wanted to echo the others sentiments. I honestly think some are holding out for playoff tickets. I know the CBJ/Ticketmaster have close to 10K from me right now (09-10 season tix, playoff seats). I think a better barometer would season ticket holder base at the conclusion of the season. I'm not sure if they release that information.

9 cbj said...

I am not concerned about attendance, we go to 25 games a year while keeping up with my son's hockey teams practices and games at least 5 nights a week, but it is not possible for the family's to go to all of the games. Spring is starting, and with baseball, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, family's have other priorities. We love the Jackets but family comes first. This day and age with what we have to pay for the kids to play sports we can't skip practices and games, it is not fair to us or the teams he plays for. This does not make us any less of a Jacket fan than anybody else, maybe just more busy.

BZArcher said...

All of the reasons below and then some. There's no reason to panic.

I had to work late + family commitments. I'm sure there's plenty of other people with similar stories. I listened on the radio for the 2nd as I drove home and was in my living room to watch the third. You're going to get that

Also, in part? Blame the CBJ marketing department. Aside from a few mentions of 'Good seats still available' on the Saturday and Sunday TV broadcasts, they weren't promoting this game any differently than a standard midseason tilt.

Imagine the difference it might have made if they'd taken out ads on TV-, radio, or in the Dispatch calling it a 'Must-Win for the playoffs!' or something similar?

If you don't make sizzle, sometimes people have trouble noticing you've got steak.

Lane said...

not a bit concerned as well, mostly because of all the other points already made above.

-those 19K nights were an aberration, full of opposing teams fans. personally i enjoyed watching them all mope out of Masonwide - been on the other end of that one too often anyhow. i believe it's a positive sign - a sign of respect when the opposition feels the need to travel hundreds of miles or pull out their ugly red/white or black & gold sweaters & show up. last i checked the paycheck still goes to the jackets whether i sit in the seat or some loser rooting for the pens.

-i'd rather have 14K fans into the game than a sell out of wannabe's (just go to an OSU mens basketball game - horrific bunch!)

-not sure how you'd get the numbers, but i wonder how many of those empties where STH seats who no-showed? that is no excuse for those ticket holders, but if they've got the ticket in their sock drawer i can't use it.

-this whole winning/succeeding thing is new here in regards to the jackets & i'd have to agree that many are a bit gunshy. let the culture grow & it will cultivate a solid base of fans. everyone i work w/ is well aware of what this team is on the crux of accomplishing - there is definitely a buzz.

love the team - love Howson & Hitch - love the fact that the future of hockey in this town looks to be bright. it's the coolest game on the planet & if we know that than who cares who else does?

LTL said...

"If you don't make sizzle, sometimes people have trouble noticing you've got steak."

Nice line BZ!

Lots of good points folks... I figured this topic would be a popular one so thanks for all the comments.

Also thanks for that link Barga.. I'll definitely work that into a future post to make sure everyone sees it!

-LTL

BZArcher said...

Just one last thing, LTL.

Look at where we are right now. Look at where the team is.

Now is not the time to turn on each other. It's time to hunker down, and hopefully get ready to celebrate next Saturday. :)

Barga said...

always, remember, it is higher than the crews raiting save playoff time
and then they jumped too

(maybe a trend?)