The Numbers Game

No this post is not about the Jets failed attempt to make the post season, that topic is come and gone, this story is about the attendance figures that the Winnipeg Jets, St. John’s Ice Caps and Colorado Eagles have done this season. It’s a feat I’m not sure we’ve seen before in the history of professional hockey. All three teams sold out every game this season. Winnipeg (15,004), St. John’s (6,287) and Colorado (5,289) have filled the buildings each and every game this year. That’s a total of 26,580 tickets a game or 2.179.560 on the season add in the extra 60 standing room tickets that the Ice Caps sold on opening night and the season total for the organization is 2,179,600!

Sure the argument can be made that their rinks are too small if they are selling out every game but I will counter that with I belive they are just right. All three levels have created a demand for a ticket, it’s one of the hardest things to come by in the three cities and when tickets do become available you instinctively buy because when else are you going to get a chance to see a Jets/IceCaps/Eagles game? They have created a level of demand that has season tickets sold out, waiting lists to buy season tickets capped at 8,000 in Winnipeg, 2,000 in St. John’s and Colorado still has open spots on theirs. Long term stability was one of the major reasons the Jets left town back in 1996 and Toronto is to blame for the Baby Leafs leaving St. John’s. Both these cities know what it is like to love and have lost so it was no surprise that fans would be anxious to buy tickets the first year they were back.

The question now is will this continue next year, in five years, in ten etc? I have to believe that it will. Thanks to the size of the arenas the demand for tickets will always be there. The Jets of old never reached a season average of more than 14,000. In fact they pretty much sat around 13,000 except for their final year in which it dropped to 11,316. Their season tickets are locked up for another 2 years at 13,000, with a waiting list of 8,000 people ready and willing to step in should those ticket holders not want to renew. While it hasn’t been announced I suspect that like the original purchase fans will have to stay on 3, 4, 5 year contracts based on their seat locations.

This is a formula for success that other relocating franchises in the future will model after, it all but guarantees success if the targets are reached and capturing fans at the emotional level and not the rational level is how to guarantee ticket sales.

I’m not gonna look through the history of years past but this season no other AHL or ECHL team has sold out every game, there are a few teams (Hersey, Providence, Lake Erie, Chicago, Houston, Grand Rapids, San Antonio and Charlotte) that have a greater per game average attendance but none have sold out every game like the IceCaps. Only a couple of teams (Toledo, Ontario and Stockton) have a higher average game attendance but again none have sold out every game like the Eagles have.

The Jets meanwhile sit 25 overall in per game average with only Anaheim, Columbus, Dallas, New York Islanders and Phoenix selling fewer tickets per game. However only Washington, Vancouver, San Jose, Montreal, Edmonton, Detroit, Calgary and Boston were the other NHL franchises to record sell outs in every game, (New York Rangers and Buffalo sold out all but 1 game).

So yes it’s safe to say that the sellouts occurred because of the arena sizes but the question I turn to you is:

Are the arena’s too small for these three markets or just right?

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Jeff Stevenson is a co-founder of winnipegwhiteout.com and co-host of the popular Jets Hockey Podcast. He grew up in Winnipeg, MB and became very passionate about sports, hockey and the Jets. Now Jeff is proud and honored to help bring news and information about the Winnipeg Jets to fans around the world.

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