Avs Winning Games and Losing Fans

Wednesday night’s Avs-Coyotes game was a Colorado record for low attendance. Adrian Dater asked fans what happened and he got back some very interesting responses.

According to Dater, a lot of fans reported ticket prices weren’t the only factor keeping them away from the Pepsi Center. Some fans reported problems with the Avs ticket office — strange ticketing policies and newer season ticket purchasers getting treated better than older ones. Apparently the music played in the Pepsi Center is pretty bad, too, and geared more toward teens than the older fans who probably make up a significant portion of the Avalanche fan base.

And this, to me, is the challenge of sports for the next few years. The NFL treats its fans like garbage, gouging them until there’s nothing left, operating with impunity, because if some fans get tired of the exploitation, there are usually plenty more ready for the opportunity (in most NFL markets, that is). But eventually sports run out of fans to gouge. In the NFL, you’re seeing it in Detroit and Jacksonville. In baseball, even the Yankees wound up dropping regular-season ticket prices when fans wouldn’t pay exorbitant prices for the good seats.

The challenge of sports, for the NHL in particular, is not just accommodating current ticket-buyers, which is huge, but also creating an environment inviting to non-ticket holders. It’s not enough to have your core audience taken care of. Successful teams will think about ways to get new fans into seats, too. Even if it means lowering ticket prices, so people who might not normally attend a game get the chance to experience the sport as a live event.

If teams don’t take care of current fans while simultaneously cultivating new fans, you have what happened Wednesday night in Denver: a first-place team playing in front of 11,012 fans, or a three-quarters full arena, in a previously hockey-mad city.

Keeping fans happy and finding new fans isn’t easy, but it’s crucial to the survival of teams. It takes just a few years for people to fall out of the habit of live hockey; for people to find some place else to take their families and to find another fun way to spend whatever extra cash they have.

Finally, the saddest part in all of this is that this is probably one of the largest crowds Phoenix has seen in a while.

Also, totally unrelated, but in case you somehow missed it, Puck Daddy interviewed Kevin Dallman about life in the KHL, and it’s a really great conversation. If you wonder about life in the KHL, and sadly, I do, this gives you a great sense of what life is like in the league.