Attendance, Insecurities and Where We Go From Here

Attendance, Insecurities and Where We Go From Here


Attendance, Insecurities and Where We Go From Here

For the second time this postseason, the conversation and analysis regarding an Ottawa Senators playoff game has been hijacked by a discussion over the number of tickets being sold for it.

Yes, after failing to sell out game one of the Eastern Conference semi-final versus the Rangers (16,744 fans), the Senators are reportedly lagging in the sale of tickets for tonight’s game six of the Eastern Conference final.

The horror.

Outsiders will inevitably use this as an opportunity to drop trou and shit all over Ottawa as a Canadian market for hockey, but this isn’t Toronto. If the Senators had a base of approximately 8.7-million fans to sell tickets to for three games in 10-years, I’m sure they’d be doing just fine too.

This attendance issue, if you can call it that because hey, there’s still plenty of time for all of the seats to be paid and accounted for before game time, has caused a bit of a stir.

Sure, I guess it is kind of disappointing that in what could ultimately wind up being the final game of the Senators’ season, the focus is not on the team or how they are just two wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history. The attention is unfortunately on yet another negative sidebar story that has dogged this team during their playoff run. It’s not on the same level as Mark Borowiecki threatening a return to the lineup, but it’s definitely not bueno.

At the very least, it means that people are judging the Ottawa Senators and their fans.

In today’s Ottawa Citizen, Bruce Garrioch wrote that “If this game isn’t sold out, it will raise a lot of questions about the market.”

Fuck that nonsense.

The team and its fan base are doing quite fine, thank you. But hey, if you want to hang the attendance issue on a lingering factor, don’t hesitate to place the blame where it’s more than deserved – on the organization and its owner who refuse to accept responsibility for putting the franchise in this position.

The city of Ottawa is renowned for its walk-up crowds, but attention should be paid to the precipitous decline in the season ticket base and the pressures it puts on the walk-up crowds to make up for all of these empty seats on short notice.

Rather than poke fun at an “eccentric, quirky and goofy owner”, Senators fans are bearing the brunt of the criticism.

If you thought the Senators were tired of playing defence in Sunday’s 7-0 blowout to the Penguins, think of how their fans feel because they’ve essentially gone on the defensive since the playoffs started.

From the outset, fans have had to endure the criticisms of their favourite team by outsiders.

At first, it was because the Senators were the only playoff-bound team that owned a negative goal differential. Then as the Senators’ successfully disposed of the Bruins and Rangers, it was because of the NHL’s playoff format, the string of key injuries and poor goaltending that had a hand in Ottawa’s success. Or better yet, that it was strictly because of a boring style of hockey. I mean, I know that the Senators have a tendency to fall into a passive trap that congests play and creates turnovers within the neutral zone, but Ottawa can’t be that boring. It’s not like they moved their most entertaining and talented defencemen to Nashville.

The playoffs are an exercise in good luck and fortune where one bounce or an untimely injury can sink a club, so Senators fans shouldn’t enjoy this experience any less simply because they’ve had an easier road than others.

I mean, Carolina Hurricanes fans shouldn’t enjoy their 2006 Stanley Cup win any less simply because they didn’t have to go through the Ottawa Senators with a healthy Dominik Hasek.

The Senators and their fans shouldn’t have to apologize for the team’s success or enjoy this run any less simply because they haven’t had to climb hockey’s Mt. Everest to get there.

Even though Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Post recently wrote about Ottawa’s insecurities and made mention of how the roots of this lack of self-confidence are tied in to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the repeated defeats that the Senators suffered at the hands of those Leafs in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, it’s part of this team’s history and the effects helped shape the psyche of this fan base.

Are Senators fans more sensitive or insecure about their favourite team’s stock?

Is this even quantifiable? Or more importantly, who fucking cares?

The Ottawa Senators are one of three remaining teams left playing in the NHL postseason and it simply puts them and their fans more under the microscope than they would otherwise be.

Wear the slights and criticisms like a badge of honour, Ottawa.

Not all of the coverage is going to be flattering.

Let people talk.

Enjoy the limelight and if Ottawa gets bounced tonight, so be it. We’ll get a chance to see how well Montreal and its fans cope with the attention of having P.K. Subban reach the Cup Final. I’m sure they’ll handle it fine.

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