Friday, December 18, 2009

Senators deny themselves playoff revenue to get fans back

From the pro media:
"With attendance down more than six per cent this season, the Ottawa Senators are turning to price reductions and free parking to try and boost season ticket numbers."
The Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan provided more specifics::
"All renewing full- and half-season ticket holders will pay regular season prices during the first two rounds of the playoffs in 2010 and 2011, as well as discounts in rounds three and four."
There is an argument NHL teams go a little too far with jacking up the face value of tickets at playoff time. However, as you know, the NHL is an attendance-driven league. The post-season is where franchises can really make money (not to mention, there is the secondary ticket market). The Senators, to some extent, are punting that to try to get people back for the regular season, where a first priority is just to make sure a team makes enough to recoup expenses.

It is a concern the Senators are willing to agree to cap their potential take if they go deep into the playoffs. It is like a store closing early on the last Saturday before Christmas. Speaking as someone who does love living in a city with a NHL team ("better not move to Toronto" joke goes here).

Then again, it is possible the Senators organization lived a little high on the hog in 2006-07 and '07-08. Their financial fortunes may be returning to equilibrium, so it might not be so bad (just not great).

Meantime, not that the two are being linked, but it is amusing that was announced the same day The Universal Cynic passed along at a fan's tale of what can happen when someone comes to Scotiabank Place expecting to cheer at a hockey game, instead of sitting there like mummies:
"From before they even dropped the puck, SBP ushers were eye-balling us from every post. We assumed they had never seen Sens fans as dedicated as us before and didn't think much of it (remember, this is Ottawa – home of some of the worst fans in Canada). But that was short-lived as the ushers began asking anyone near us “Are they too loud? Are they bothering you? Everyone simply answered 'No, they’re fine'. Shortly after, 2 security guards showed up to tell us to deflate a beach ball one member had brought to the game – apparently due to safety reasons. Strange seeing as good’ole Spartacat himself launches hot dog missiles into the crowd at every game.... None the less, we complied, deflated the ball and continued to enjoy the game. This is when SBP staff stepped up their efforts and began random ID checks within our group only. I’d never seen this at a game before and didn’t understand seeing as the average age within the group was 25-35 and that we all provided identification when we purchased our beers. (I'd like to see them try doing random ID checks in the 100 level!) It was becoming painfully obvious that they really didn’t want us there! Not long after, one RSA member threw a handful of popcorn at one of his friends, which proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Before we knew it, our section was surrounded by 8 police officers in full uniform. Our 2 friends were asked to leave and weren’t given any explanation. All of this happened before the half way mark of the 2nd period! And for the rest of the game people around us were continuously asked by ushers if we were bothering them, and the answer continued to be 'NO!.'
Talk about confirming the Ottawa stereotypes (although it's notable people weren't bothered; the staff were just being a little officious).


Anonymous said...

Before people say this is awful etc lets all keep in mind this is a issue league wide.Ottawa is in better shape then a good number of teams.

sager said...


The subtext is people are being a lot more demanding with what they expect with their sports entertainment dollar. That's not just the recession. Part of that is more options to watch games on your computer or TV. It's affecting attendance everywhere; 15 of 22 WHL teams are down at the gate.

Still, the Senators are doing a rob-Peter, pay-Paul by conceding they would make less money off a big playoff run. They are not the only team in that situation, you are correct.

(The stopper for people who predict a team is going to relocate — have a destination in mind. I hate it when people say the Blue Jays are going to leave, since there is no market for relocation.)

Anonymous said...

What concerns me more then anything is what some people expect and think teams should get attendance wise.I was in a debate with many people but one person said there were at a 67s game and the arnea was on half full acting as this was bad.I got from there post they thought ohl teams sold out every single game i pointed out this is not correct.Then you have other saying melnyk will only take a loss for so long.I said as well as other ottawa is not doing all that bad vs other markets double and triple there size.You have to wounder is did the sens set the bar to high sell outs top 10 team in attendance for years etc.

sager said...

You hit the nail on the head ... attendance expectations have to be realistic.

There is a short-term shift going on with respect to the recession. The long-term effect of having so many home entertainment options is people may start attending fewer games, especially at such prices.

As a related point, the Senators are not going anywhere any time soon. There has to be somewhere for them to go. This is a not-great NHL market ... smallish population and a lack of "expense accounters" (i.e., such as the Bay St. crowd that fills the ACC). Something Ottawa has going for it is people will pay a high dollar for tickets if they're sold on the quality of the product.

Von Allan said...

I suspect there's a bit more to that Universal Cynic post then meets the eye. One comment ("Dear origintaor...") would seem to bear this out...

sager said...

You think it's a red herring?

Carl said...

Yikes. From Mark Sutcliffe's article in today's Citizen:

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.

He goes on to write that the Sens have experienced the third worst attendance decline (22.8%) in the league. It may be a "league wide" issue, but only Tampa and Phoenix are faring worse.

Anonymous said...

While the senators may or may not have 3rd worst decline the fact is there are still a good amount of teams with worst attendance.Yes it may look worst with a drop all at once as alot of teams have had a decline each year for the past few years.As for marks comment they had dropped by 4.000 since everything else i have heard is just just under 2,000 i am not sure where that 4.000 comes from.

sager said...

I'll do an updated count after tonight's game ... the fair comparison is to do average attendance vs. what it was through the same number of home dates last season.

Some math-challenged sportswriters keep comparing it to the average for all of last season.

Von Allan said...

I tend to think that police have better things to do then just bug people who are yelling a lot.

Mind you, I'd argue the same thing with border guards but there's that whole Peter Watts incident to chew over (