PRICE HIKE + LOW EXPECTATIONS = SMALL CROWDSDon't blame the old barn for poor ticket sales

CB at FANHOUSE: The “NHL Cycle” weekly recap (NYI)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The next SNY “Islanders Interactive” fan call-in show is set to be recorded on Tuesday at 12:15 pm. Stay tuned for final details later in the day.

 

There are plenty of times when the Islanders’ failure to finalize an arena development deal appropriately comes into play when discussing the franchise’s shortcomings.

 

However, just as fans are not lining up to buy tickets, it is impossible to buy into the recent team-fed propaganda that the Islanders’ existing attendance problem has anything to do with the state of their arena.

 

That’s because the notion is complete nonsense.

 

In a small article about the Islanders’ attendance buried in Newsday the day after Thanksgiving (subscription required), general manager Garth Snow said the following:

 

There are a lot of ingredients as to why it is what it is. I think the building is a part of it, but winning plays a part as well.

 

Snow only got the lack of winning part right. There are three “ingredients” that have combined for a nosedive in attendance this season:

 

1. The Islanders raised ticket prices, in some cases significantly enough to turn off season subscribers, partial plan holders and the individual game buyers. According to a recent report, Islanders’ over-the-counter prices are now four dollars higher than the NHL average despite a roster at the salary cap floor.

 

2. Without the gift of the Summer of Tavares, the Islanders in 2010 may have tinkered with their defense, but did nothing on even a borderline-”wow” level to improve the team.

 

3. The poor economy, which has a lot of people thinking twice about spending big cash on sporting events.

 

It was the perfect spitstorm.

 

The math is really simple. Other than brokers buying up blocks of season packages so they could get first crack at tickets for “The Wall,” Dave Mathews, Taylor Swift and other in-demand concerts, the Islanders had little reason to expect a jump in attendance. By the home opener (not sold out), the team was already offering seats at drastically reduced prices. The Islanders also offer promotions like the Family Fun Pack, but these often come across like whims, instead of long-term strategy.

 

Fact is, with a small season subscriber base, attendance would still be down from recent seasons even if the Islanders were playing NHL .500 hockey at the quarter-pole. It would still be down if Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit were healthy. Tickets would still be readily available on StubHub for as low as $6. With most seats face valued at $65 – $150, the Islanders (like the rest of the NHL) are not a walk-up business. Teams usually do not sell 5,000 tickets on the day of a game, like in Major League Baseball. If the Islanders move 2,000 on gamenight, including Loudville and any other bargains, it is justifiable cause for celebration.

 

If the Islanders really cannot fully comprehend why attendance is down, perhaps they could look back to 2001 at the effect of adding Chris Osgood, Adrian Aucoin, Alexei Yashin and Michael Peca to the roster and a charismatic newcomer named Peter Laviolette behind the bench. Averaging an announced 9,000 over Thanksgiving weekend nine seasons later? It’s not the decrepit building’s fault. The building was decrepit in 2001.

 

Yes, winning means a lot. So does trying harder to put a winning team on the ice. The Islanders chose to stick with the very slow and often unsteady rebuild, which could still turn out to be the right move some year. But the organization should not blame the dismal attendance on anything but the real reasons why.

 

Going forward, let’s hope the Islanders stick to their “no excuses” mantra off the ice as well. Their only concern should be fixing the problem and bringing fans back into the building to support the team.

 

NOTES

As reported by Katie Strang, Jack Hillen and Andrew MacDonald have resumed skating with the team…Josh Bailey suffered what the team has termed a “minor pectoral strain” while playing for Bridgeport over the weekend and is listed as out day-to-day.

 

Brian Compton of NHL.com and I hope you will call in on Tuesday from 12:15 – 12:45 pm as we record the latest episode of our “Islanders Interactive” call-in show. No pressure, but the broadcast is the only one of its kind on the air or on the web for Islanders fans. It’s only as good as you make it. Stay tuned for final details, posted later in the day.

 

Tomorrow, November 30th, SOCIAL (across the street from the Coliseum) is hosting a special event for hockey fans. For just $50 – a special price exclusively for Point Blank readers - included are Islanders game tickets, a three-course meal from Danny Gagnon of “Top Chef” and personal visits to your table by center Rob Schremp and defenseman Andrew MacDonald. Autograph requests and the taking of photographs are highly encouraged.

 

Again, for 50 bucks, you get a ticket to a game – face value: more than $50 – a visit with a pair of current Islanders and a great meal. Not a bad way to spend a night. Seating is very limited by SOCIAL so every fan can have enough time to meet with Schremp and MacDonald. The event is open to all ages, but you’ll want to book your seat at the table today.

 

For reservations call 917.848.8984 and ask for Max.

Or email max.feinberg@socialsportskitchen.com 

Mention Point Blank for discount

 

Comments relevant to this post are welcomed.