Game 2: Edmonton @ Calgary, Sunday March 22nd. Attendance: 11,122
Game 3: Calgary @ Edmonton, Monday March 23rd. Attendance: 3501
"Embarrassing", that was the word going around press row last night as the City of Champions flocked to Rexall Place by the
Let me get this out right up front - I don't pay to take my seat in the press box. I live in a bit of a bubble when it comes to the Oil Kings because with The Pipeline Show, it's my job to follow the team so I'm at the games regardless of prices, weather, promotions, etc.
If someone out there wants to tell me to shut up because I get through the door for free... you've got me, it's true. I don't know what it's like to pay for season tickets. However, I have purchased single tickets several times this year, taken my kids and sat in the seats like everyone else though so I'm not completely ignorant of the experience (which certainly isn't without it's flaws).
The Oilers weren't playing on the road so fans weren't staying home to watch them on TV. The weather was beautiful, but it's not exactly beach season yet so that wasn't the problem. Ticket prices didn't go up for the playoffs (unless I missed something). So where was everybody last night?
There were 11,410 butts in the building on March 15th when the Oil Kings were hosting Red Deer in the final game of the regular season as they tried to get into the playoffs. Yet a third of that showed up for an actual playoff game, the first one in the team's young history?
Did the organization drop the ball here somehow? The team clinched their playoff spot a week ago in Prince Albert, was there not enough time between then and Monday to promote the heck out of the playoffs? Are the Oil Kings guilty of simply believing that with the big numbers near the end of the year that playoff ticket sales would just naturally follow? If so... was that wrong?
Last night on the catwalk I had a between periods conversation with someone in upper management who told me he had talked to "hundreds" of people last week who told him "congratulations on making the playoffs, you should have great crowds" yet at the same time were not going to be attending the games themselves.
I'm also told that of the 3300-ish season ticket holders, around 1000 didn't pick up their playoff option. There was about the same number of tickets sold in walk up yesterday but all in all, 3501 represents one of the smallest announced crowds of the entire season... and it's the playoffs!
Part of me wants to be saying "Shame on you Edmonton!" but I honestly can't because I don't know who or what is to blame for the poor showing. I was expecting a crowd in the 10,000 range considering the historical importance, the playoff excitement, the quality of the opposition, (the Hitmen are a legit Memorial Cup contender as the #1 ranked team in the country), and the fact that Edmonton is so well known for being an event city. To me, this qualified as an event.
TEAM 1260 program director Bryn Griffiths pointed out that the group ticket sales from the regular season aren't there in the playoffs, a great point by him. It was a school night and the team has clearly targetted families with the teen and younger children demographic so a Monday night didn't help.
But is that it? Will Wednesday be any better? I certainly hope fans aren't waiting for Friday night's Game 5 because there is no guarantee that Edmonton is going to avoid the sweep as Calgary is proving their dominance.
I can only guess about what kept the general public away because as I said earlier, it's my job and I get in free so I'm not facing the same realities as the casual fan. So let this be your forum; you tell me why you didn't go on Monday night and I'll make sure someone in the organization reads your thoughts.
I don't work for the Oil Kings so their P&L statements aren't my concern but watching playoff hockey at Rexall can be an awesome experience, unless the building is only 25% full.
Fans of quality hockey are missing out - the Hitmen are ridiculously good and Edmonton goalie Torrie Jung has been playing out-of-his-mind in the net for the Oil Kings. I wish that was the only story from Monday night.
(all photos courtesy Edmonton Oil Kings and Andy Devlin)