The secondary question after who will win the game Friday night between the visiting Calgary Flames and the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena is how many people will show up.
Columbus beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 on Wednesday, but in front of only 9,802 fans. Before Canadian hockey fans wanting a seventh team pack up the trucks and move the team to Winnipeg and Quebec City, take a deep breath.
The Blue Jackets are not going anywhere anytime soon.
Even the team president predicted early attendance struggles to the Columbus Dispatch in September.
By The Numbers
Calgary (3-3-0, 6 points)
Goals scored: 11
Goals against: 15
Current streak: L1
Columbus (3-2-0, 6 points)
Goals scored: 13
Goals against: 13
Current streak: W2
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Rink: Nationwide Arena
Head to Head: Flames vs. Blue Jackets
"We will have some weekday crowds of 8,500, potentially," Mike Priest told the newspaper.
Sports fans tend to vote with their feet in relation to results the previous year. Just look at last year's Colorado Avalanche, who struggled at the gate long after the team had turned the corner from mediocre and creaky to young and promising.
Fans of the Avalanche can be accused of being spoiled after two Stanley Cups in the first six years in town. That alone should build some goodwill for years to come.
You certainly can't make that case of the Blue Jackets faithful, who have seen just two playoff games — both losses — in 10 seasons of play.
After a long-awaited playoff appearance in the spring of 2009, the team slid back 13 points last season. They were back to being NHL also-rans, with coach Ken Hitchcock fired.
"I think the biggest factor is that for 10 seasons now this franchise has not built very much trust with the fanbase," said team beat writer Aaron Portzline of the Dispatch. "Either they don't believe they're going to be a good team or they're in wait-and-see mode before they continue to throw their money at the product.
"What would be concerning to me is if the team made the playoffs and did not see a spike in attendance."
The team was greeted with much enthusiasm in the late 1990s, but the 2004 lockout can be seen as a bit of a demarcation point in retrospect. Season attendance figures above 700,000 before the lockout have given way to totals of about 100,000 less every season since.
The Blue Jackets are also more dependent on walk-up crowds than most clubs and with a suburban fanbase, there's often been a disparity between mid-week and weekend crowds, especially early in the season.
When the Ducks visited in late October 2008, only a little more than 10,400 fans turned up to watch.
To Canadians who believe this glorious game should be played to nearly 20,000 each and every night, the plight of the Blue Jackets will probably arouse little empathy.
Of course, some of those same people would probably hate to see anything happen to the Blue Jays, who played to a quarter-full building many nights in Toronto this summer despite being one of baseball's most exciting teams.
Portzline said Columbus simply doesn't have a long enough history with hockey to withstand "getting kicked in the teeth" for a decade or more, like, say, Toronto hockey fans. Some people, he said, have sunk as much as $60,000 US into the Blue Jackets' experience with little celebration as a result.
"I sincerely hope that people don't blame the fans here and the city here when the blame should go to the organization entirely," he said. "It's been a bad product a lot of nights."
Unlike the Phoenix Coyotes, who have probably erred in site location for their arena, the Blue Jackets have been part of a downtown revitalization. According to an Ohio State study, the new businesses that have arisen in the arena district since 2000 have generated more than $6 billion US in revenue.
As well, the club's ownership has deep, inextricable roots to the community.
So obituaries are premature, but the challenges are great. It was revealed last year that the club was losing about $12 million US annually, and they don't have control of their building and as many ancillary revenue streams as other clubs. In June, the club struck a deal with Ohio State to help manage Nationwide Arena and share costs. The hockey franchise and the school often competed in the past for entertainment acts stopping in the city.
The Blue Jackets were one of a number of teams to begin the season with games in Europe, perhaps further muting the buzz factor locally, and they were trounced in their home debut last week against the Chicago Blackhawks.
It's no secret that Hitchcock's NHL teams haven't always been fun to watch.
Scott Arniel is the new man behind the bench. While his Manitoba Moose weren't the most prolific goal scorers, they did pretty well in that category. More importantly, they were quite successful in his four seasons at the helm of the Canadian AHL club, making deep playoff runs.
He'll have to find a way to spark the likes of Derrick Brassard, Jakub Voracek and Nikolai Filatov, highly touted prospects who have yet to fully thrive in the NHL.
On the ice, the time to impress is now.