A lack of marquee Saturday night affairs and a bevy of weekend matinees for the Ottawa Senators have contributed to the lowest attendance numbers in a decade, the team says.
The schedule has been an odd one, as symbolized by Sunday’s 1 p.m. game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That game is already the Senators’ fifth home game to begin at 5 p.m. or earlier, with four of those beginning at either 1 p.m. or 2 p.m.
Senators' record by start time
Before 7 p.m. ET: 1-3-1
7 p.m. ET and later: 7-4-3
The Senators also won’t play a Saturday night home game until Dec. 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which will then be followed by 2 p.m. home games on the following two Saturdays.
“I've definitely looked up into the 300s and I've seen a lot of empty seats, and I'm a little surprised at what's happening,” said life-long Sens fan, Mohammad Adatia.
Some Sens fans suggested the absence of long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson has kept fans away. The Senators want nothing to do with that excuse.
One thing is clear, the Senators have not played well in early games, winning only one — last weekend over the Florida Panthers.
Team president Cyril Leeder said the team is not concerned about the average attendance of 17,739, nearly two thousand fewer seats filled than last season and the season before that.
Fewer ticket handouts
He said the causes, such as the schedule and lack of marquee opponents like the Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens, are out of their control.
“Our ticket revenues have been up, our season seat count is up this year and we're on the right track,” Leeder said.
The team admits it has halted some of the ticket handouts this season, such as a two-for-one deal or giving out extra tickets to season-seat holders, which is also a contributing factor to lower attendance numbers.
The Senators also began the season on a six-game road trip that took them through three U.S. states — California, Arizona and New York. But the schedule does balance out, as Sunday marks the end of a five-game home stand.
Ironically, the last time average attendance was this low the Senators went deeper in the playoffs than they ever had previously, losing in the 2002-03 Eastern Conference finals to the New Jersey Devils. They averaged a crowd of just under 17,200 that year.