Sunday, December 13, 2009

Are the Montreal Canadiens Fudging Attendance Figures?

On Thursday I attended the Penguins/Canadiens game and like the rest of the fans was disappointed with a quick whistle that deprived the Canadiens of the tying goal in the third period. As the fans around me moaned in agony at the unfairness of it all, I was loathe to remind them that just a a couple of weeks ago, at another game I attended, the Canadiens were the beneficiary of another blown call when the referees failed to blow the whistle after the puck had struck the protective mesh behind the net, subsequent to a Canadiens goal.

No matter, I was concerned with weightier matters, namely why the Canadiens continue to claim sell-outs when it appears that tickets are unsold.

Even though the city of Montreal had just survived it's first big snowstorm of the year, it didn't seem likel that it would affect attendance, as the streets were quite passable after a magnificent job by snow cleaning crews and for the fact that the Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins were in town.
Sydney Crosby is always a huge draw here in Montreal, but perhaps his recent refusal to give any more interviews in his rudimentary French has taken the sheen off his halo among the Francophone fan base, who have in the past, considered him a semi-native son in virtue of his junior career in Rimouski.

I did arrive quite late to the game because some genius planner had the bright idea to run the Olympic Torch Relay through the downtown core at the exact moment some 22,000 fans were arriving for the Canadiens game.  Various parts of Ste. Catherine Street and René Levesque Boulevard were shut down and grid-lock quickly took hold. It was close to eight o'clock before I got to the Bell Centre entrance on La Gauchetière street and I was quite surprised to see a tickets for sale sign posted on the electronic message board attached to the building;

Now this was well into the first period and nary a soul was in the ticket office buying anything.
Not surprising since a plethora of scalpers were giving tickets away at below cost right in front of the building.
I waited for the P/A announcement thanking the fans for another sellout, but it never happened. Come to think of it, the Canadiens haven't announced attendance since early in the season.
The box score in the morning paper, once again announced a sell-out and Red Fisher of the Gazette mentioned the sell-out in his column. I remain highly sceptical....

I saw the same thing earlier this year at an Islanders game, but since I had arrived on time, I figured that they could possibly sell-out.

Are there cracks forming in the hitherto Habs sell-out phenomena?

It's already happened to the Toronto Maple Leafs who were unable to sell out all the luxury suites at Air Canada Centre for the first time in 10 year.

The Ottawa Senators are also suffering an attendance slump. A recent game against provincial rivals, Toronto, had thousands of tickets unsold.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the crappy on-ice performance of these three teams is a factor.

I shudder to think what will happen to attendance in the dead of winter in late February if the Canadiens and Sens are below .500 and unlikely to make the playoffs.

Incidentally the hockey movie that was produced in conjunction with the 100th year anniversary is bombing in the theatres.  The dud, 'Pour toujours les Canadiens' had a horrible opening weekend, with sales of only $112K in close to 100 screens throughout the province.


  1. There was an article explaining that in the Gazette. I'd link to it but that seems to be disabled on your page.

    Interesting observations on the sellouts. Any further confirmation?

  2. "Fans" of le bleu, blanc and rouge only seem to be in the seats when they are winning. Montreal will not support a losing team, no matter what. I think this is why the Als win...CFL must make in manditory as they need the revenue.