Avalanche Blogger Roundtable: Question 1

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Today kicks off the 4th Annual Avalanche Blogger Roundtable, where various Avalanche bloggers weigh in on key questions about the Avs' upcoming season. Actually, we should probably go with "Avalanche writers" there, as we're joined by Denver Post columnist Terry Frei. While not every Avalanche blogger was able to participate this year, the writers below are a representation of the tremendous depth and quality of the Avalanche sites around the web (and around the world). Definitely take some time to check out the fine sites below, as well as others around the Avosphere (yeah, there's a name that we haven't used in a while...for good reason).

Here's a list of this year's participants, many of whom are new to the roundtable:

There will be three questions each day, scheduled a few hours apart. To start things off, we discuss the Avs' attendance, right after the jump...

Over the last two seasons, the Avalanche rank 27th in total attendance, averaging 14,688 fans or about 82% of Pepsi Center capacity.  It seems like we're light years away from the 487-game sellout streak that ran from 1995 to 2006. What, in your opinion, is the biggest cause to this drop in attendance?

Stephen Crociata, Patrick Kane's Loose Change: I think the attendance drop is the cause of three main factors: 1) the economy 2) the teams performance two seasons ago and 3) Joe Sakic's retirement. Number one is obvious and has been spoken about to death, number two while it can help explain struggles for this past season it doesn't really explain how fans already knew the Avs would fail two years ago, but let me expand on number three. From 1995-2008 the Avalanche put teams on the ice that had fans excited and gave them a ton of fan favorites but three players stood out most during that tenure: Sakic, Forsberg, and Roy. Sakic was the last of the 3 remaining and when he retired I believe many Avs fans who came to see a star didn't see the appeal in a team without Super-Barnaby Joe. Though the future looks bright as the young core looks to do their best impression of the two Stanley Cup teams, and if Craig Anderson doesn't help fill seats I don't know who will.

Jaye Horbay, Patrick Kane's Loose Change: Not being from Denver, I always heard the old adage ‘Win and they will come’ and there was certainly a lot of winning in Denver after YEARS of coming up short (Hey Broncos). When the Avs gave the state their first pro sports championship, and the several consecutive winning seasons after, the fans flocked. The easy answer to the drop in fans would be ‘lack of star power.’ Non-lazy answer, I think the terrible 08 season that had fallen upon our once powerhouse team left some deep scars. I’m not sure how the bad the recession has affected Colorado, but I’ve been told by people (nay, person) that the economy and high ticket prices are still holding people back from The Can.

Marc Parsons, Hendricks Hockey: I believe that a major reason the crowds stopped showing is because of decline in the Avs wins since Patrick Roy retired. Having a goalie with a superstar status like his is the kind of player that brings hope to the fans when the playoffs come around. Sure we still had great players, but without the kind of play Roy brought to the Avs and Theodore being totally useless, the crowds were bound to stop showing. The tides will change within the next few years; the Avs are becoming a threat again.

Mike Verminski, Put It On Ice & The Hockey Writers: Well living on the other side of the country makes it kind of tough to answer this one, but two years ago the team was horrible. If a team plays bad it’s hard to get fans to buy tickets. The economy is in the shitter right now so people don’t have money to spend on tickets to games like they used to. That combined with a lack of marketing is probably the cause of the drop in attendance. I know the Avs offer special ticket packs where tickets are cheaper, but maybe they should find something else to do that involves lowering prices and getting more people to the games.

Andy Robbins, Avs Weekly: Aside from the obvious lack of Stanley Cup playoff success since 2001, it comes down to the severely weak marketing campaigns from the Colorado Avalanche staff. True, it doesn't help that you don't see Roy, Sakic, and Forsberg on a roster anymore, but try to work with what you have got. And what you have got is youth and pure talent. Who wants to see uneducated thug / soon-to-be traitor, Carmelo Anthony on a huge billboard while entering the city of Denver? Wouldn't you rather see a billboard highlighting familiar old town favorites such as Hejduk and Foote, and integrating new fan favorites in Duchene and Anderson? Are you sick of hearing about Tim Tebow? Me too. Let's talk about Daniel Winnik, the monster penalty-killer who puts the puck on net all night long. Let's talk about Ryan O'Reilly, a 19-year old kid that works harder than any athlete in Denver. Most importantly, ticket prices are ridiculous. Season tickets prices never go down; the 14-game AVS pack is NOT a great deal, however does offer good games. People don't have money. Everyone I know is struggling. The Avalanche organization needs to cater to that. Beer should not cost $8. The Florida Panthers season ticket plan costs as low as $354.75 for 43 games, at $8.25 per ticket. Their lower bowl tickets start as low as $36.25. Sure, the Florida market can't entirely compete with Colorado, but just glancing at the ‘youth/rebuild' movement, there's truly not a huge difference. Lastly, the Avalanche entertainment of fans at games is clearly subpar: same boring fan-participation games, same t-shirts thrown, same teeny bopper music on a set timer every game. Kroenke and Co. surely have some work to do if they want to put a stop to revenue loss.

There's the mainstream sports fan that only supports their team if they are winning, and there's the dedicated sports fan that will support the team no matter what transpires. The dedicated Colorado Avalanche fan is few and far between. If only there were 18,007 of them that all had a good amount of money.

From The Point, Real Denver Sports: There are many factors that came together to kill the Avs attendance. Primarily it was the lockout.  It killed the inertia of the situation in Denver.  I, like many fans had to scramble for tickets during the sellout years.  Prices went up and up and though I was irritated about it then, I kept buying because it was the hottest ticket in town. Demand begat demand.  And then the lockout: people were pissed that millionaires were fighting over money.  For a year the NHL went dark, Adam Foote left and Peter Forsberg left.  The lockout gave fans a breather to stop and evaluate the situation.  The result was that many fans reassessed that priority right out of their lives.  The urgency of buying a 14 game package or sharing a season with some friends disappeared.  I realized, as did many fans that I no longer needed to scramble for tickets.  There were going to be seats available.  So why let the Avs dictate the games I see with their 14 game packages?  Why split a season with a bunch of people that all want to go to the same games?  Before the lockout I had 4-5 people organized to buy a whole season of tickets.  After going through that refund process not one single person wanted back in the next season.  The Avs lost their momentum and never saw it coming; therefore they didn't adjust their game plan and got shut out.  Game over. 

Geoff, The Avslova Factor: The drop in Avalanche attendance can be attributed to the same thing that is attributed to the Columbus Blue Jackets' terrible attendance numbers - mediocrity. Two seasons ago, this was a last place team. Maybe that season was ultimately a fluke, but the fact remains, they stunk. Joe Sakic left, but there was no "farewell tour." Sakic was too humble to make that horrific season about him - but I digress. Last season, I'm surprised that there wasn't somewhat of a boost. Yes, in the beginning, we had no reason to believe that the Avs would be any better. If anything, they should have been much, much worse. But we saw the beginnings of what could be something special last season. That said, the Avalanche marketing department is still woefully ignorant of how to market this team. The city of Colorado needs to see commercials of Stewart beating the crap out of somebody, or Matt Duchene potting that clutch shootout goal to clinch a Playoff spot; instead, "it's all about the A." Real catchy. 

Aaron "Avalangelist" Musick, Hockeybuzz: The biggest cause is the Avs not marketing their team to college level people. They are the rowdier people, the ones with the least amount of free time and the greatest choice over where to spend it. The Avs are just irrelevant to that group and that's the group the Avs needs, both from attendance and noise standpoint. I think the Avs need  to become relevant again to that demographic and they need to become a lot more modern. The other stuff (ticket prices, in-game entertainment, etc.) means nothing if the Avs target the wrong demographic.

Mike Thompson, Mile High HockeyThere's a perception among many that the team is all "new" guys with the retirement of Roy and Sakic, Forsberg's continued absence and the reduction of familiar "young" faces from Drury to Tanguay.  The organizations belief system that winning is all the advertising a team needs only works when you win.  If you don't win in a town with a glutton of sports options, you won't draw anybody.  Mediocrity since the lockout has given the fanbase all they need to stay away in droves.

Angélique Murray, Avs Prospects, Mile High Hockey, Chicks Who Give A Puck: The drop in attendance goes back to the lockout.  Fans found alternatives in college hockey and minor league hockey and chose not to comeback when the league returned.  The loss of Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote once the lockout ended didn't help matters.  It also doesn't help that the organization has a disconnect with its fan base.

Matt Powell, The Burgundy Blog: I'm not going to lie and say that I haven't noticed the attendance issues. It's just one of those things I try not to talk about. Mainly because I don't have any bright ideas for getting the attendance up. I don't think commercial break games or intermission entertainment is the answer. The last two seasons we've seen little to no advertisement for Avalanche games. Luckily this year I've seen billboards and TV commercials. However, I think people have a choice to make when they want to see a game. They can either spend $40 a ticket on upper level seats or spend half to sit at home and have some snacks and drinks. Not everyone can be a die-hard fan and sadly, I think the Avs have lacked those in the most recent years.

David Púchovský, Eurolanche: I am European, know European fans, but also have experience with American fans. Here are two extreme examples, none from them is right. For most US Avs fans hockey means the one big show. For most European fans the hockey is the biggest passion, in some case it is fanatic. When I was in Pepsi Center, I saw many, many "fans", sorry, businessmen without interest in hockey. Also there were many fans talking to each other during one or two periods without looking at the game. Generally the sport is something like fashion style in the States. There are also die-hard fans, but not many. So the answer on the question is - do better marketing, have billboards and advertisement everywhere in Denver, in every media. Typical US fan needs to see that Colorado Avalanche team is modern, is in the fashion, is cool.

David Driscoll-Carignan, Mile High Hockey: A few weeks ago, the Minnesota Wild just ended a similar sellout streak. After 9 years and 407 games, the Wild failed to sell out a game - preseason, regular or playoff - for the first time in their existence. The Wild still have the longest active regular season streak, but the point is that every franchise is going to experience dips no matter how rapid the fan base is. I do think the Avalanche could do more off the ice to get fans into the seats, and lowering ticket prices would probably be a great way to start. Here is a sobering stat: the Avs' average home attendance last year was lower than their final season in Quebec. Time to panic? Nope...but a couple more seasons like this could start some rumblings.

Terry Frei, Denver Post: The slippage on the ice. If the Avalanche had remained elite, everything else - bad economy, high price of tickets, availability of games on television - would not have affected the box office. But it's oversimplification to pinpoint one "cause." It's a perfect storm, and I remain convinced that the NHL didn't deliver on its implied lockout promise to aggressively address high ticket prices and do more than simply attempt to keep future increases under control. I'm also on record that once the season ticket base slipped and fans realized they could pick and choose, the slide at the gate was virtually impossible to stop. Plus, I have disdain for the attitude that a fan is morally bankrupt if he or she decides to watch the games on HD and pay the Xcel bill rather than pay $100 apiece for decent lower-bowl seats. I'm actually amazed NHL and NBA attendances have held up as well as they have.

Matt Jordan, Mile High Mayhem: The economy has a lot to do with it. Plus, there are a ton of things that could make the live sports experience much better. It's not just in the NHL, but all sports too. I think it's more of a league issue than just a Colorado Avalanche issue. (however, I think the turmoil on the other side of the building (see: Dever Nuggets) will aid in the Avs getting more numbers)

Grant Beery, Hockeyism: I've always been a big advocate of changing the arena experience. There's nothing wrong with the game itself, it's the entertainment that happens between whistles. If you have ever been to another arena or have watched pregame happenings on Center Ice, you can easily say that the Pepsi Center experience doesn't hold a candle to the rest. Get people excited to come to the games, otherwise they'll be just fine with staying home.

Adam Hersh, An Avalanche of Thoughts: This is such a weird stat to me. Low attendance two years ago makes so much more sense as we were a bottom of the barrel team without its superstar captain in the lineup for the second half of the season. Last year, however, the team was completely rejuvenated with a youth-filled injection like never before. Two first-round draft picks making the team at just 18 years of age in Duchene and O'Reilly, coupled with the coming of age of guys like Chris Stewart and TJ Galiardi made this team exciting to watch again. Not to mention the fact that Craig Anderson gave us the most consistent goaltending we've seen (minus that near-playoff run a few years back that Budaj made over the last two months of the season) since good ol' St. Patrick. Here's to hoping this team's attendance woes are done for because I really feel Denver has something to believe in with this team.

Ryan Boulding, The Burgundy Blog: I feel like the biggest reason behind this drop in attendance is the lack of marketed superstars. In the past we've have Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, and even Ray Bourque. But eventually the team imploded and the old guard was disbanded and fans were left with a lackluster aftermath. The Avalanche could very easily begin to fill more seats, but the game plan involves not only the on ice product but selling the talent to the fans as well. Contests like the PuckDrop and viewing parties and the like are a great place to start, so I'm optimistic about the direction the team is going.

Courtney Beckham, Chicks Who Give A Puck: While there are several factors that contribute to the drop in attendance, the most notable being the lack of success the team had in the 2008-2009 season and the retirement of Joe Sakic in the 2009-2010 season, there are further underlying issues. The Broncos have not been as successful as they were when they had won their two Superbowls, yet the coverage of them and the strength of their fanbase and ticket sales are still just as strong.

This can be attributed to a few things, one that they have been around longer. The other, they were unsuccessful for years before they won their first Superbowl, so fans were used to not winning. And finally, the coverage of the Broncos is a thousand times better than that of the Avalanche. The simple solution would be that fans need to support their team at all times. The other solution would be that the Avs need to play better. But the only applicable solution to the situation we have at hand is that the Avalanche need to interact with fans to make up for the dismal coverage they have and to get the word out in a non-inflammatory way (i.e. NOT through Adrian Dater.) Better usage of their Facebook page, Twitter account, slogans, marketing would help but not solve the issue. Creative ticketing plans such as the one the Florida Panthers used or the Student Rush which is used by many other NHL teams might help but has to be done carefully.

Shane Giroux, Avs Talk: Can I pick three? Out of lack marketing, lack of cheap tickets and lack of playoff success, I'll choose marketing. This team used to be filled with big names like Roy, Sakic and Forserg. Coupled with the whole "winning the Cup in year one" thing, it made marketing the Avalanche the easiest gig in the world. With a rebuilding squad, the marketing team needs to step up and make Matt Duchene, Craig Anderson, T.J. Galiardi et. al. household names. They need to convince people that this team is not only exciting to watch but back on track to success. They can't simply sit back and wait for the team to be in full bloom if they want to keep the building full every night.

Jibblescribbits, JibbleScribbits: Well losing probably doesn't help much. Also the lockout drained all the leftover momentum from the Avs glory days. Add a management that seems indifferent to fans, at best, and completely out of touch with them at worst and it's the perfect formula for an attendance drop. The fans who are in attendance are into it, but there isn't enough at many games to get the juices flowing the way they were against the Sharks in the playoffs. Yet the avs are still selling this atmosphere as the main selling point instead of any number of young exciting players.

Paul's Coffey, Mile High Hockey: Swine Flu. Y2K. El Nino. Bird Flu. SARS. H1N1. The Taliban. Oh, and the team having the worst season in their history in 08-09 didn't help either.

And if you've gotten this far, we have a bonus treat for you. Jay Vean of Avs Hockey Podcast answered in the way he does best: a podcast. His answers for all three of today's questions are up for you to enjoy.

 

We hope you've enjoyed these varying takes on the Avs' recent attendance woes. Now it's time for you to weigh in. Avalanche fans, why do you think about the drop in attendance? And be sure to check back later today for more roundtable action.

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