Wider NHL media seem to be pointing to Columbus' season ticket holder issues and giveaway offers for opening night as a sign of impending doom, but it seems like more like some savvy attempts to fix the problem from this end.
In case you missed it yesterday, Jeff Bell of Business First reported that the team's season ticket base for the 2013 season is probably the lowest in franchise history.
While that's unfortunate, it's not exactly surprising. The team lost the face of the franchise, brutally cratered after an offseason where fans were told they would be more competitive than ever, and the carrot held out in front of the fanbase to try and hold onto their loyalty was taken away by the lockout.
Even stranger, why are they treating the team's current round of opening night promotions as some kind of desperation tactic?
As PHT themselves mention, the Predators are offering the same type of deals for their home opener. In fact, I asked around and found very similar promotions from quite a few teams for their opening night games.
- The Coyotes are offering free upgrades for season ticket holders to move from the upper to lower bowl seats.
- The Bruins are offering free parking, free shirts, and a ton of giveaways, plus food/beverage vouchers for every game in January.
- Free concessions and shirts are also on the way in Pittsburgh, a team that's already sold out their building for every home game this year.
- The Red Wings are offering $9 tickets at the door, free food, and other giveaways.
In short, the efforts in Columbus seem par for the course for the home openers around the NHL. If I didn't know better, I'd say it looks like they are trying to attract fans and apologize for killing half of this season.
Now, that said, do the Blue Jackets need to fix their STH base? Without question, and I suspect a great deal of the damage was done from people who canceled their ticket plans after the All Star Game went away. But it's silly to act like giving away some tickets or offering some swag for one of their home games is a sign the franchise is sinking.
If the team gets off to a good start, watch the gate. Don't be surprised if single game ticket sales bring attendance up, and should fans see a competitive product, I'd bet we see renewals creep back upwards for 2014, but I wouldn't be shocked if the majority of fans make the decision to purchase quarter season or "flex" packs because they are leery of putting the investment of full or half season packages in until we see more of an improvement under John Davidson's watch.
Fans in Columbus have shown that they will support a winner. We've warned for some time that they are likely to vote with their wallets if they don't get one. In the mean time, the team will try to make themselves more attractive while we all see what comes from the various changes on and off the ice.
The front office has been clear that they've received the message. If the team responds appropriately, it will improve.
(In other words, I just spent ~500 words to tell you "Hey, look, if they win more games people will buy more tickets.")