It was an unexpectedly big news day for the Jackets on the heels of yesterday's media luncheon, with both local and national media finally latching on to the drop in season ticket renewals we first reported two months ago.
Interestingly, neither the story from the Columbus Dispatch or Puck Daddy covered the fact that according to team president Mike Priest, corporate partnerships are actually up over the past few years, which likely will help with some of that lost season ticket holder revenue.
It also should be pointed out that the season ticket sales last year were a record high thanks to the team's playoff appearance, and it would be foolish to expect the team not to suffer a decline after last year's disappointing results. As GM Scott Howson was quoted, "It's difficult to put butts in seats if you don't win. We have to prove things to the fans by the quality of the product on the ice before they will come back."
It's also worth considering that with Ohio's current economy, people aren't spending money on pro sports the way they could the last few years - consider that the Cincinnati Reds, in the midst of a banner year and leading the NL Central, are suffering below average attendance, with Fox Sports personality (and former CBJ reporter) Jim Day complaining about the poor attendance on his twitter feed and exhorting fans to buy tickets.
Just to put an exclamation point on that, consider the fact that the NFL, the most successful pro sports league in North America, and second in the world only to the English Premiership, finds themselves with declining season ticket sales again in 2010 for the third consecutive year.
I also have a hard time with people claiming that Columbus is a failure as a hockey market when other teams around the league are in even more difficult situations. For all the issues in Columbus, the team isn't closing off parts of their upper bowl, forcing the city to foot their operating bills, threatening to leave town if they don't get a new building, or trying to find new ownership in the middle of a protracted court battle over who owns the team.
Yes, the ticket sales aren't good, and the team's arena lease is a problem, but a winning product on the ice will fix one half of that equation, and all indications are that the team, the City of Columbus, and the NHL are working to resolve the other.
For an excellent look at why the Blue Jackets' situation is less the sign of a failing NHL market, and more a sign of the economic times, look at this post by the Dark Blue Jacket, who looks not just at Ohio sports, but attendance around the NHL, and the poor conditions in other parts of the country.
In the end, though, there is only one thing that can show the NHL, the media, God and everybody that Columbus is a hockey town, and that we love our Jackets: You.
Go to games. Buy tickets. Watch the team when they go abroad and when they're playing on the road. Listen to the radio and call in to defend yourselves to those who choose to dismiss you as not being "true hockey fans" because it's easier to play to stereotype than to actually bother to see just how deep the history of hockey in this town goes.
Fill the building with cheering, screaming, shouting fans, tear the roof off when the cannon roars, and you'll shout down a hundred times as many people who don't think this team or this town can succeed. But only you can help do that, and it will start in just a few short weeks.
On to happier news after the jump.
With individual game tickets going on sale to the general public this Friday, the team has announced another part of the 10th anniversary celebration: a series of Alumni Nights featuring players from the inaugural 2000-2001 team that will feature autographs, giveaways, a pre-game video tribute, and ceremonial puck drops.
The first will take place on October 15th, the home opener after the team returns from starting the season in Sweden, with former CBJ RW Bruce Gardiner, who scored the team's first goal against the Chicago Blackhawks on October 7, 2000. Fittingly, the 2010 edition of the club will also be facing the Blackhawks, but this time they're the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The Jackets haven't lost their home opener since 2006. Let's hope Bruce gives them a little good luck to help keep that streak alive.
The second Alumni Night will be Friday, November 12th against the Avalanche, featuring former captain Lyle Odelein, who wore the C from the first game through 2002.
In December, we'll see the return of Epsen Knutsen on Saturday, the 18th, while the team takes on the Dallas Stars. Shampoo's christmas gift to the fans will be CBJ winter hats for everyone in attenance.
When the team takes on the Red Wings in January, current CBJ development coach Tyler Wright will be honored, and fans will receive a free scarf. (Given Wright's founding of the Hats for Heroes charity, why not a hat? Who knows. Maybe the scarf, like memories of Wright's game winning hat trick goal, will at least keep us warm on cold winter nights.)
When the Oilers come to down on February 5th, it'll be Geoff Sanderson, who lead the team in scoring during the inaugural season, and who remains a trivia answer for scoring the first hat trick in the franchise's history.
Finally, at least for now, on March 11th vs the Kings, former CBJ goalie Marc Denis will be recognized for his time with the club from 2000-2005. Everyone in attendance will receive a Rick Nash bobblehead modeled with the team's new third jersey, which is pretty nifty, but considering we ARE talking about Marc Denis, I was personally hoping for a 10th anniversary beach ball.
Fan favorite (and John H. McConnell's favorite Blue Jacket) David Vyborny is unable to attend this year due to playing commitments with Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic, but the club did tell Dispatch reporter Aaron Portzline that former CBJ goaltender and candidate for Mayor Ron Tugnutt is working to schedule a possible appearance, depending on his coaching duties with the Peterborough Petes.
It's good to see the team honoring players from the inaugural season, and I hope we see other interesting events built around the 10th anniversary theme as the year goes on.
Stick with The Cannon this week, as we'll continue with looks at the upcoming CBJ training camp battles and our season preview over the next few days before the boys hit the ice Saturday to officially get this thing started!