January 15, 2007, - 5:03 pm

Pro Hockey Gets Desperate & Fans Get Hungry

By Debbie Schlussel
The NHL product (the game, the “competition,” the non-stars) has gotten so boring, substandard, and expensive, the St. Louis Blues started a new trend to fill the stands a little more.
Team owner Dave Checketts fed the audience dinner. Saturday’s Blues crowd more than doubled the average and nearly filled the Scottrade Center, as spectators got to choose between hot dog or chicken fingers entree; popcorn, peanuts, or potato chips snack; and a soft drink–all at no extra charge to ticket-holders.
And the food gimmick worked. Attendance reached 17,868 for the free-food-fest, while only 9 times, this season has the Blues reported a crowd of at least 10,000. They drew as few as 5,410 fans in their 23 previous home games. The arena has a capacity of 19,022.
And the Blues won the game, too, scoring 6 hot dogs to the L.A. King’s 5 chicken wings. . . er, goals.


Attn, NHL: @ Blues Games, Food > Hockey

With the rocketing NHL prices making the game out of reach to its blue collar and middle class fans, you may see more of this in the future in all but a few markets (like the constantly sold out Detroit Red Wings games). And it’s a good economic trend for consumers and families, if not for gazillionaire owners and players whose respective ticket prices and salaries are still too high.
Welcome back to reality, National Hockey League.

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9 Responses

Hockey is a good game. Problem is very few people (Americans) have the opportunity to play this game growing up due to geography or expense; equipment and ice time are outrageously pricey. Plus, the best players in the NHL are foreign and ticket prices are too high.
You want more people at a game, lower the prices. Obviously, the demand is not high enough to justify the ticket prices; pretty simple supply and demand.
It seems to me more people at the game for a lower gate would equal more money spent at the concessions and souvenir stands.
For watching sports for boys age 15 – 35, I would say (based on my own observations and prefrences) Football is #1 (NFL and College), Basketball is #2 (college and NBA, although NBA regular season is terrible to watch), UFC is #3 and climbing (everyone I know watches television events, PPV is another story as it is too expensive for most young men), Baseball is #4 (fun to go to games, boring to watch on T.V.), Golf is #5 (when Tiger Woods is in contention for a Major it is higher) and Hockey is somewhere after that with Tennis, NASCAR (I realize this is probably more popular, but I dont know anybody who watches NASCAR), Strong Man competitions, Track and Field and other miscellanous events. Soccer is below all of these, except for the World Cup which is interesting because it is so meaningful to so many people and brings out a lot of nationalism.

dll2000 on January 15, 2007 at 6:07 pm

I think the 2004-2005 lockout proved that libertarian economics don’t work. Because of high salary costs and less profit margins, the owners wanted something called “cost certainty” but the union called that a “salary cap” and wanted to stick to the free market system. They of course eventually reached a deal, but the point here is that these business owners wanted an agreement to cap salaries instead of allowing the free market determine what those salaries should be. Yes, ticket prices are too high because salaries are too high. But that’s the fault of owners, not the players.
Yeah, the free food idea is great! At least they’re giving something back to the fans.
Posted by: dll2000
[Soccer is below all of these, except for the World Cup which is interesting because it is so meaningful to so many people and brings out a lot of nationalism.]
If David Beckham says “football” enough times, I think some Americans will be tricked into watching soccer.:)

Norman Blitzer on January 15, 2007 at 6:38 pm

“With the rocketing NHL prices making the game out of reach to its blue collar and middle class fans…”
The Atlanta Thrashers offer $10 seats for every home game. Present a student ID and you can purchase their $35 seats for just $15.
I just checked Ticketmaster, and the St. Louis Blues offer $16.25 tickets. These are among the CHEAPEST seats in all of professional sports.
In regions where hockey is very popular, teams sell out their arenas. You said so yourself. In regions where hockey isn’t as popular, tickets are dirt cheap. Capitalism in action. I really don’t see what the issue is.
“The NHL product (the game, the “competition,” the non-stars) has gotten so boring…”
I don’t understand this statement. How has the NHL gotten boring? If you personally don’t like hockey, that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean that the NHL is getting boring. If you don’t think that the NHL has stars, then you just aren’t paying attention.

thegoalie on January 16, 2007 at 8:49 am

dll2000 pretty much has it right. The tickets are way too expensive. Sure there might be $10 to $16.25 tickets, but that’s not the problem. It’s the lower bowl tickets that are $50 and higher for 40 + games and then playoffs. That’s not to mention parking, concessions, etc. There just aren’t enough people willing to buy the expensive seats for 40+ games. I think I’m crazy paying $1,200 at least every year for a PARTIAL plan to the NHL Predators.
The Nashville Predators at this minute are crying about attendance and possibly moving.
the goalie, “In regions where hockey is very popular, teams sell out their arenas.”
Pray tell where these are besides Detroit, Boston, or New York.
Hockey has done a lousy marketing job with their stars, too. Too many generic foreigners. They haven’t done a good job educating the public on the rules and strategy of the game, either.
Hockey has a multitude of problems.
Here is where dll200 got it wrong. NASCAR is probably #2 in this country. Why, I do not know as I find it incredibly boring. But, it’s ratings and attendance are a close second to football.

The_Man on January 16, 2007 at 11:21 pm

ThegoalieÖFEW AMERICANS like hockey (or soccer) because few Americans are good at it. Case closed. Hockey is ONLY boring if youíve never donned skates and stick-handled a puckÖone just canít appreciate the level of skill involved. One must experience it.
The NHL needs to forget the food program. IF YOU need food to sell tickets, to sell hockey, then the locals just havenít gotten itÖyet. Better to open up the rink ìoff hoursî to the locals, rent skates and hockey equipment and let them try it after signing waivers, of course. Keep a few hockey and skating coaches around to give some pointers.
Also, make sure to end these ìindoctrinating sessionsî with a couple of Canadian women hockey players. If Johnny sees how well Canadian Sally plays then Hockey Mountain wonít see so impossible to climb.
Plus, we need to start parachuting Canadian kids all over America, dropping them into American neighbourhoods, to teach American kids how to play street hockey. WE CAN worry about skating laterÖletís get one shoe on first, guys~
Next, the Canadian Armed Forces could ìhitî colleges and university with elite French-Canadien Corps, erÖhockey coaches who are not able to accept (have a cultural intolerance to) inferior hockey playing at the varsity level.
That would be my hockey marketing programme.

The Canadien on January 17, 2007 at 8:47 am

In response to The_Man’s question concerning high attendance “Pray tell where these are besides Detroit, Boston, or New York.”
Montreal, Tampa Bay, Detriot, Philadelphia, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Minnesota, New York, and Colorado all AVERAGE sell out crowds. 17 out of 30 NHL teams sell over 90% of their arena’s tickets on AVERAGE.
Source: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/attendance?year=2006
St. Louis is ranked 27/30 in attendance, so it’s reasonable that they’d offer a game day promotion to boost ticket sales. Again, this is perfectly consitant with capitalism.
Some NFL teams have lousy attendance figures and offer similar game day promotions. Should we expect a DS column about how the NFL is boring, etc.?

thegoalie on January 17, 2007 at 9:20 am

Hey Nashville, come NORTHÖ RIM’s Jim Balsillie’s is very interested in owning you since the Pittsburgh deal fizzledÖ
The Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo area, here in Ontario, could easily, would GRATEFULLY, support an NHL team.
We NEED MORE hockey here in Canada! NOW!!
PLUSÖIím sure all the team members would get free BlackberrysÖ
Debbie won’t write an article about how boring the NFL isÖthat’s common knowledgeÖoverstating the obviousÖthere isn’t really an article thereñ

The Canadien on January 17, 2007 at 12:46 pm

“The NHL product (the game, the “competition,” the non-stars) has gotten so boring…”
Come out to San Jose and watch a game here, that is of course if you can get a ticket. Yes San Jose frequently sells out games. If all you are watching is the crap in saint louis than that is your fault. I’d hate hockey if I had to watch Keith Tkchuck too.

liquidflorian on January 17, 2007 at 6:35 pm

dll2000, I think ranking NASCAR is tricky. Here in the NY metro area (and probably in much of the Northeast), it really would be dead last from observation, though I don’t know where you’re from. And hockey would likely be #5 after baseball (what is UFC? Not soccer, right?). Actually in some markets further north and perhaps closer to Canada from here (like much of Upstate NY, and mid-northern New England), hockey would probably be even higher. In Buffalo where my sister lives, I could even see it be #1.
But go to say Nashville or Charlotte and NASCAR would be king! And I think for the nation as a whole it could be #2 or more likely #3 below basketball.

hairymon on January 21, 2007 at 8:31 am

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