Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fronts: Fans are Scrooged, unless someone grabs that Branch

The OHL's holiday break hasn't stopped Kingston Frontenacs owner Doug Springer from adding to his loss total.

Springer and Fronts GM-for-life Larry Mavety have lost another of their handy-dandy excuses for why Fronts' attendance has fallen into the triple digits. The U.S.-Latvia world junior exhibition game drew 4,007 to the K-Rock Centre on Sunday night, which beats the typical Fronts crowd by a factor of four in terms of people actually in the arena. One one can anticipate the U.S.-Russia tilt tonight will bring out similar numbers.

It puts the lie to Springer blaming Kingston's supposed unwillingness to support hockey or saying that December is a dead zone for attendance. Hey, anything to avoid acknowledging the (white) elephant in the room: The attendance is a direct reflection on the delusional Springer and the dismal Mavety.

There is no accountability at the league or municipal level. There isn't even accountability in terms of fans voting with their feet, since the city is on the hook for those shortfalls. Over the weekend, Save The Fronts explained why the Frontenacs' upcoming meeting with the City of Kingston over their low attendance could amount to little more than smoke-and-mirrors, as much as so many people wished they would pay the price. The team has the "sweetheartest of sweetheart deals with the K-Rock Pot," where they only pay a percentage of their profits as rent.

The deal is so one-sided that's it almost as laughable as Springer's assertion a few weeks back that Mavety is a "great hockey man." One among many ironies is that Neil deMause, author of the book Field of Schemes which talks about how sports owners shake down governments for new stadia, gave an interview this week where he said, "nobody wants to give money to an owner who's in last place." Neil deMause has never been to Kingston.

Kingston's city council does not meet again until Jan. 6. The pretext for the meeting was to talk about the team's marketing plan, not the toxic environment around the team or the fact that no serious coach or GM would touch the Fronts with a 40-foot composite stick, since Springer runs more interference than the New Jersey Devils during pre-lockout hockey. Framing this as being a marketing problem means they can send poor PR flack Jeff Stilwell. So much for the adage that if you're going to lead the band, you better be able to face the music (and by the way, the music selections at the K-Rock Centre are straight from an early '90s high school dance, do something about that).

On a league level, your guess is as good as any as to why OHL commissioner David Branch is letting a good hockey market go down the drain. As a fan at Fronts Talk put it, "The fact that the K-Rock was able to attract over 4,000 fans to a game that didn't even involve a Kingston player, or a Canadian team at that, speaks volumes about this city's willingness to go to hockey games, so long as the product on the ice is worth it."

Branch, just like the NFL's Roger Goodell with the Detroit Lions mess, should step in and demand a better owner, or at least that Springer remove Mavety. He should be asking to see a clearly defined plan that shows how they play to have OHL-calibre hockey people in place, who will ice an OHL-calibre team, not one who counts on blue-chippers such as Ethan Werek and Ottawa native Erik Gubranson, to be a Cadillac fa├žade on a K-Car.

It might be unprecedented, but so is the situation in Kingston. The city has had bad teams before. This one is also a corporate welfare bum and unapologetic for not putting a better team on the ice and have tried to influence the media coverage. Diehard fan MisterDB can testify:
"As a season ticket holder since the Aces days (40 years) this is the most disgusting product that has hit the ice compared to what could be there. The woeful Canadians in their losing streak (editor's note: a CHL-record 28 straight losses in 1987-88) had more entertainment value and had more fans attending then what was at the last game.
Branch can suspend players for idiotic behaviour on the ice that happens in the spur of the moment. By that reckoning, he should be able to do something about the off-ice idiocies that have continued for more than a decade in Kingston.

Kingston has seen bad hockey before. That '87-88 debacle -- the Canadians went 14-52-0, lost 28 games in a row and were outscored 432-246 -- led to a new owner, new coach and a name change. (All three changed again before the '89-90 season.)

This team is actually on course to top, loosely speaking, that team's dubious accomplishments. These Fronts' goal differential, when compared to the next-worst figure in the league, is worse than the '87-88 teams. You could look it up.

(I did the math. The '87-88 team was outscored by 186 goals. The next-worst team in the OHL that winter was outscored by 121, meaning the Canadians' "quality of victory" was by a margin of 54%. This season, Kingston's in the red by 58 goals, not counting shootout winners. The next worse goal differential belongs to Peterborough, minus-39. On a per-game basis, that means the Fronts are 57% worse -- which jumps to 71% if you do count the shootout goals that are counted in the standings but not in the players' stats.)

The mere fact those comparisons are being made is shameful enough for Springer. It is uplifting to know the fans back home got to see quality hockey for a change. One can only wonder what Frontenacs player will think when they hear what the crowd was like for these two games. How will it influence their willingness to give 100% for an organization which is not doing it for them?

Those are the kind of questions Springer and Mavety -- Ignorance and Incompetence, Inc. -- must be forced to answer. Full power to anyone who points out how bad they embarrass everyone who has Kingston hockey in her or his blood.

Don’t get your hopes up (Save The Fronts)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have a massive amount of respect for mr mavety.But i think part of the reason for the attendance issues is he is not any way making the teams better.They started this year with on paper a good teams not great but not awful.Now what does he does 2 months in trades a couple key players.There on pace to be much worse then last year.

Doug Springer
He has made some very odd moves in the paast few years.I still don't think he understand or does not care put a good producst on the ice and you will get good crowds.They aslo need to do a much better job marketing the teams.Its said when a tier 2 jr a team is out drawing a major team.