Friday, April 13, 2007

Red Wings fall short of sellout

The Globe and Mail's Tim Wharnsby is in Detroit for the first two games of the Red Wings' series, and he blogs today that the turnout for yesterday's opener was, in short, terrible:
...the sight of so many empty red seats at Joe Louis Arena in the Wings 4-1 victory against the Calgary Flames on Thursday evening was sad. Good old Bud Lynch, the Wings long-time public address announcer, declared the crowd for the series opener at 19,204, which is more than 800 fans from JLA’s 20,066-seat capacity.

If the no-shows were factored in, that attendance figure was likely 3,000 shy of a sellout. The prevailing theory is that Detroit’s hockey fans are sick and tired of being sucked in by strong performances in the regular season, only to be quickly let down in the playoffs.
Detroit had an 11-year sellout streak heading into the game, but a huge hike in ticket prices (as reported by Behind the Jersey and others) really put off a ton of fans heading into the first-round series. Otherwise affordable upper-bowl tickets doubled in price for Round 1, and will triple for Round 3 and quadruple for the Stanley Cup finals.

I'm all for charging more as things move along, but for a season-ticket holders' $44-ticket to jump to more than $200 by the end of the postseason is ridiculous.



At 4:52 p.m., April 13, 2007, Anonymous Brad said...

Hockeytown, eh?

At 4:55 p.m., April 13, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like they have ACC disease...

At 5:01 p.m., April 13, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW that price is insane for the finals. Makes me happy my upper bowl season ticket seats only go up about 3.5x the regular season cost for the finals.

Sad to hear of the demise of such a huge streak in Detroit but at those prices you can't really blame fans for not wanting to hand over their money which was likely required in full in advance. 4 Stanley cup final games in the upper bowl for 1000 dollars per seat is a mighty big sum without factoring in the 3 previous rounds.

At 5:22 p.m., April 13, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

They price gouge at Joe Louis Arena like nobody's business - combine that with the loss of Yzerman and Shanahan this year and I'm not surprised.

Just because it's "Hockeytown" doesn't mean Detroiters want to pay a billion dollars to get a nosebleed while "watching a hockey game" from three miles away.

At 7:01 p.m., April 13, 2007, Anonymous Baroque said...

I know if I had tickets to a team with that recent history, I wouldn't give them a single dollar until they had proven that they might actually advance a round or two. Why bother spending time and effort on a team that might only last another week and a half? Show me something first, THEN I might consider buying tickets.

I think the fans that are waiting to see what happens are being intelligent. Skepticism is the wise choice with their very recent playoff history.

At 7:30 p.m., April 13, 2007, Blogger Mike Chen said...

You think Ed Belfour would pay a billion dollars to watch a game at the Joe?

At 9:11 p.m., April 13, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

I would think that the depressed economy is more responsible than previous playoff performance considering that they are 3 seasons removed from their 3rd Stanley Cup in 6 seasons.

At 9:24 p.m., April 13, 2007, Blogger Rob said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:27 p.m., April 13, 2007, Anonymous Rob Visconti said...

There are several factors at play here: the economy here in Michigan is absolutely awful right now; there's renewed interest in MLB following the Tigers run to the World Series last year, and more people are allocating some of their sports budget on baseball tickets; the Pistons are still a title contender, and, along with the Tigers, are forcing the Wings to share a stage that they'd frequently had to themselves this time of year since the early '90's; the ticket prices are completely out of kilter with what the market can bear; the loss of a few "face of the franchise" type playes; and, it bears mentioning again: the economy here is horrible.

One theory that I believe is overblown is that the franchise's "recent history of playoff disappointments" is keeping people away from the rink. Trust me, Detroit hockey fans aren't that far removed from a time when one championship, much less three, seemed like a pipe dream. Sure, early exits are disappointing, but we have no complaints with four Finals appearances and three Cups since 1995.

Detroiters and Michiganders still love hockey, rest assured. I just believe that a combination of the aforementioned factors, and especially the fatal combination of sky-high ticket prices and poor economic conditions, are keeping folks who'd love to be at the rink watching at home on television.

At 6:35 a.m., April 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well first off, the official attendance for game 1 was 95.7%, and game 2 was 98.4%. Keep in mind most of the empties were paid for but probably put in the hands of Joe Schmoe who is connected with somebody that has tickets, but had a "schedule conflict" and decided to piss real fans off and not show up. However I will spot you your point because it is valid, in years past less than 100% attendance to a playoff game at The Joe was unheard of.

For people not from the area, there are a few sad realities as to why there are empty seats at The Joe for the playoffs this year. A couple problems for starters are the economy in Detorit for one, it is incredibly screwed at the moment, between automakers cutting jobs and handing out lay offs in droves, (which has an significant impact on the blue collar Red Wings fans (which there are ALOT of)). Couple that with a consistantly dropping population in the city of Detroit proper for work elsewhere which consequently is causing a loss of customer base for non auto related businesses also. On top of that, alot of season ticket holders are businesses not individual fans due to prices remaining high when area incomes in the last several years have on the whole suffered dramatically.

Over the last 10 plus years of Red Wings success ticket demand has accompanied it. Just like in any other successful hockey market many area businesses with no real interest in hockey have bought season tickets because it is the "in" thing to do for visiting clients and employees. So the Wings still sellout on paper which drives demand and cost up, while the real fan of old, most of whom are suffering finacially has less opportuninty to attend. The fans just can't afford to pay resale anymore, too many people have bought a ticket and sold it out of town for an inflated EBay rate, or some idiot that hasn't a clue what offsides is has gotten free tickets from someone he knows who has connections. Alot of the time those people DO attend, but most of them couldn't care less if they miss the game for one reason or another either, and the latter is easily enough to make that 4.3% margin that missed game 1, and the 1.6% in game 2.

While I appriciate greatly what the Illitch family has done for the organization in the past 25 years, I don't like the fact that even when the salary cap was placed and the money was no longer needed to pay players, ticket prices (one of the NHL's most expensive markets) has either increased or remained the same.

Once you factor all these things togeather it all starts to compound. Detroit is in dire straights as a community, people are leaving for better lives elsewhere, or struggling to forge new ones here. You are hard pressed to walk far and see a smiling resident anymore until you hit the suburbs. Sports is all it has going right now, and unfortunately its not a cheap affair to see any of them. Baseball, basketball, and football are more popular in the states, football isn't even in the equation in Detroit the Lions are so terrible the only tickets they sell are to people carrying signs insulting the ownership. The Pistons and Tigers have had recent success but still enjoy cheaper tickets so naturally that will make them hot competition for a Detroiter with less money to throw around. So that family of 4, who 3 years ago would have been at the Red Wings game went to the Tiger's game this week because it was a much cheaper outing.

The fans are still here, but prices and other event competition as well as buyer competition have made attending more and more of a luxury the average fan can't afford.

Detroit still has one of the strongest and most die-hard hockey fan bases in all of the NHL, easily the most hardcore American fanbase. One which ticket sales aside rivals hockey fans anywhere toe to toe. Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Detroit, Tornoto, Ottowa, Buffalo, the list could go on of the buildings in the league that are loudest, most appriciative and critical of their beloved teams, and Detroit will remain on that list. Wether its a couple decibles quieter or not don't believe its because fans don't exist anymore, that is just not the case.

Times have simply changed for the worst around motown, but they will change again, better days are ahead, hell it can't get much worse. I know too many people who have left in the last 5-10 years to count on my fingers and toes, but all of them still cheer and bleed red and white, just not from the stands. No need for a pity party, just the facts of life, if you cannot relate consider yourself fortunate and count your blessings.

At 5:08 p.m., April 16, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

Count me among the masses that left in the past five years... maybe that's a good reason why you can go to almost any arena in the US and see scores of Wings fans. We're all displaced Detroiters.

I know that when I was in LA, it wasn't particularly difficult to run into people from Michigan, especially at Kings games. Now that I'm in Texas, I've gone to see the Stars among tons of other Wings fans. When we were walking to the arena, the guy walking next to us informed me that he was from Flint, MI

At 9:04 p.m., April 21, 2007, Blogger Cynthia said...

Oh, Detroit still his Hockeytown Brad. You just do not see the TRUE fans on television because we cannot afford the ticket prices to go. We're forced to watch from home.

Those oh-so-annoying fair weather fans are at the Tigers games now.

When I found out there were actually tickets available I jumped at the chance to go, only to be let down that there's no way in hell I can afford a $250 dollar set of tickets for 3.

Perhaps this is for the best? Perhaps now the ticket prices will go down and the real fans can reclaim The Joe!
Or perhaps my optimism is blinding me...

As my father says, "Hockey is no longer a poor man's sport..."

At 2:56 p.m., April 27, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of good points on this post.

I live here in Michigan, have a good job, and still can't convince myself to pay huge sums of money to buy tickets.

In years past, I jumped at the opportunity to buy tickets. But now, with the economy so uncertain here, the super high ticket prices, the 1.5 hour drive to the JLA, the run down facilities at the Joe (I've been to many other arenas and the Joe is a dump, it just makes more sense to go down to a local bar, pay $2-3 per beer and watch the game on a high def tv.

Not only do the ticket prices suck, add parking and $8 beers to the equation. Might as well get a home equity line if ya wanna go.


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