Sunday, October 30, 2005

Wish You Were Here

Obviously you have heard the NHL's touting the increase in the attendance figures at the beginning of the season. For the most part that is true, there are plenty of people showing up to the games. In fact, as of the October 30th, there are 11 teams out of 30 who have at least 100% capacity in their building this year. Sure, all of them (save two) are in markets where there would be a sellout every night, but that's neither here nor there.

Obviously, you expect Toronto, Montreal, and Minnesota to have the biggest attendance, as there are waiting list for season tickets. Vancouver and Colorado have impressive numbers for teams that may or may not be that good, depending on how you look at things. Calgary is actually overselling the Saddledome, as they have been at 112% capacity in their 4 home games. Also, Ottawa, Philadelphia, and Detroit are all in the top tier of attendance. The surprising teams are San Jose and Tampa who aren't usually known as hockey cities, but thanks to strong seasons in the recent past, the Sharks and Bolts are doing just fine with people in the seats.

Yet, that's not the thing I'm baffled about-- it's about the teams who aren't getting anyone in their buildings.

First off is the Nashville, who are only pulling in an average of 14,000+ in their home games. The Predators started the season 8-0, they signed a big name player in the way of Paul Kariya, and they are coming off their first playoff appearance and are hoping to get better and better. Right now, they are second in a tough Central Division, but none of the people in Nashville seem to care one way or the other.

Believe it or not, the Carolina Hurricanes are the best team in the Eastern Conference. With their young, talented team; the 'Canes are one of the more exciting teams to watch. Eric Staal and Cam Ward have given a boost to an otherwise dead team. Dead is the key word when it comes to describe the seats of the RBC Center in Raleigh. Each night, the Canes play in front of the 14,626 on a good night, when at other times it is much, much less.

Then you move a little North and find the Buffalo Sabres. A few years removed from an ownership change, the Sabres are coming off a great '03-'04 campaign which saw them barely miss out on the playoffs while finishing over .500. Yet, with just over 75% watching the Sabres on a given night, the Sabres could do a lot better when they have a team that could actually compete well in the new look NHL.

For me, it's just surprising that teams that are actually playing very well could be playing at home in front of such a small crowd. It's also disturbing to see that people are speculating on where some of these teams could be relocated to if they don't get more butts in the seats. It's almost sicking that some people are just preying on some teams waiting for them to fail so their city can reap the benefits. However, that's the nature of the beast.

It's even worse when you have two teams that have already had some moving issues of their own. For a few years during transistion, the Sabres didn't know whether or not they would playing in Buffalo or moving to someplace like Hamilton or Winnipeg. The Hurricanes have already moved once from Hartford to Raleigh, plus grumblings of owner Peter Karmanos looking to find some new ownership for the Canes. Plus, you have some people claiming that the Predators are looking to move to Kansas City as soon as the new Sprint Center is finished in 2007.

After the heartbreak that cities like Quebec City, Winnipeg, and Hartford had to endure when they lost their teams, you would have hoped that some of this mess would be over. In the new landscape of the NHL, you would hope that the owners would be able to keep teams financially stable. Even with that promise out there, you still see teams out there who you don't think are able to standing on both of their feet if they continue to falter in the attendance column, which could led to the inevitible choice of the team packing up and moving away. The only way to counteract that is to get people to actually go out and support their local team. Like Joni Mitchell said, "You don't know what you’ve got ‘til its gone" and for some cities, you can never get it back again.

This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!

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