Empty seats at Rogers Arena, a soft resale market for tickets and plummeting local television ratings are a sign of the times for the Vancouver Canucks.
The regional broadcast ratings for Canucks games are down by 27 percent so far this season, according to a recent report from Yahoo!’s Chris Zelkovich. The Canucks aren’t the only Canadian team that has seen their regional ratings fall, but they’re the only Canadian team that has seen a drop of more than 10 percent.
It would seem that the Canucks, currently stumbling along with 30 points in 31 games this season, are failing to capture the imagination of the city. We’ve seen in the past that Vancouverites are relatively more reluctant to support the club through leaner periods when compared with many of the fanbases on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. This would seem to be another indication.
Here’s more commentary on the ratings drop from Scott Moore, the president of Sportsnet and Rogers NHL Operations (full disclosure: I am a regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca and have also written for Sportsnet the magazine). Moore specifically highlights the Canucks’ team-level issues as a reason for the drop in regional television ratings.
“The real driver of all of this is team performance and interest in the regions,” Moore told Yahoo!. “The Leafs and Canucks are concerns for us, especially because they are our two biggest markets.
“The Leafs have had a bit of an upswing in the last month. People are starting to see there’s some discipline … and that there’s a plan that seems to be playing out. In Vancouver, which is a very fickle market at the best of times, and that team’s performance has been concerning.”
Despite an infusion of youth and the Sedin twins’ resurgence, it’s clear that Vancouver’s hockey fans are skeptical about this club. Even more so than they were last season.
The increasingly widespread disaffection of a once ravenous fanbase has to be a major concern for the organization. Vancouver’s hockey fans are savvy enough to know what the team they’re watching is likely capable of. While this Canucks team could probably still eke out a playoff spot, it isn’t a stretch to suggest that the city is voting against any win-now moves with their remote controls and their wallets.
As we approach some key pressure points for the club – whether it’s the 40-game barrier for 19-year-old forwards Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen, or the NHL trade deadline on February 29 – will the increasing sense of apathy in the Vancouver market impact the Canucks’ decision making? It probably will. It probably should.
– with h/t to /r/canucks