Attendance woes in Columbus
The Blue Jackets felt as if they were up against not only the Ducks but two NHL officials, Dean Warren and Dean Morton.
By their way of thinking, perhaps the score should have read: Ducks and Deans 4, Blue Jackets 3 in overtime, before 11,984 in Nationwide Arena.
This despite the fact Columbus is on pace for its best season ever in the standings.
The Blue Jackets' plummet in attendance, all the way down to 26th so far this season, hasn't made many headlines — but it should be almost as big a story as Detroit's similar fall. Columbus was seen to be a precarious market going into the 2000 round of expansion but managed plenty of sellouts early, and there seemed to be some positive momentum there.
Now, they're looking like another Nashville.
Columbus is the second smallest American market in the NHL, larger than only Buffalo, and has less of a population base to draw from than even the Sabres, who rely heavily on Canadian patrons. Ohio's primarily a football, baseball and basketball state, home to the Browns, Reds, Indians and Cavaliers, and the NHL merely dropped a franchise in the one sizable city that lacked its own pro team.
Owner John McConnell is a great story, a World War II veteran who scraped together enough cash to form a small steel company in 1955, but he's not a big fish by pro ownership standards and the big losses likely to result from all these empty seats are sure to make him nervous. Sticking with Doug MacLean so long in a hockey operations role has cost this franchise plenty, and I wonder just how secure the NHL's future in Columbus is.