The Incredible Disappearing Avalanche

Back in the late 1990s, you couldn't read or watch anything about hockey without somewhere finding a mention of the Colorado Avalanche.  With two Cups in six years and an all star lineup envied by every team in the league (except the Wings, who had their own), Denver was one of the most vibrant hockey hotbeds in the country.  McNichols and then the Pepsi Center were sold out every night.  The team won most of the games they played.  Forsberg, Sakic, Hejduk, Drury, Bourque, Roy and Tanguay put up big numbers and amazing clutch performances.

Fast-forward to early 2008 and the magic is all but gone.  You'd be hard-pressed to find even a brief mention of the Avalanche in the mainstream hockey press or on the TV.  Even with big free agent signings and the emergence of a young superstar-to-be in Paul Stastny, Colorado seems like an afterthought to all those obsessed with Pittsburgh, Detroit, Ottawa, Kovalchuk, Lecavalier and Ovechkin.  There wasn't a single Avalanche player at the all star game, and while that was due to injuries, it further worsened the team's image across the league.

Now comes the news that Kroenke Sports (the owners of the Avalanche) will be dishing out tickets at $20 a pop to help stem the tide of collapsing attendance numbers.  While Dater accurately points out that the economy in Denver is tanking (not to mention everywhere else) and fans' budgets aren't flexible enough to include frequent hockey games, there's also the pesky problem of three huge injuries and a lousy coach, all contributing to the weakening of the "on-ice product."

It being a slow news day, and the Avalanche being everyone's new favorite punching bag, a big name in the hockey blogosphere has already pounced:

Dater writes that Denver's economic downturn is a primary factor, but it's not like the Avalanche were fleecing fans to begin with. The last Fan Cost Index from Team Marketing Report had Colorado below the League average and even the Islanders and Blue Jackets. The Avs are currently in the eight hole in the West; that, and their slew of injuries clearly have fans feeling pessimistic.

Regardless of the fact that the inaccuracy of the Fan Cost Index has already been pointed out in the comments section of the post, the idea is clear: the fans in Denver (and the hockey world at large) are done with the Avalanche.  The honeymoon is over.

Is this true?  We all know and have already discussed the reasons for the decline in ticket sales.  It's not tough to figure out that the reason fewer people are going to Avalanche games is a combination of the following factors (in no particular order):

  • High cost of tickets
  • Decline in personal spending
  • Lack of "big names" on Avalanche lineup
  • High rate of injuries
  • No playoffs last season
  • Weak regular season performance so far

And there are probably more reasons that I've left out.  It's not just one thing, though, and there isn't one simple fix, despite various bloggers' insistence on trying to find one---or at least to point the blame at just one thing.

What do you think?  What does the Avalanche organization need to do to regain their once-stellar attendance numbers?  Is it even possible in today's economic climate and with the salary cap looming over any dynastic aspirations?  Is there a simple fix?

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