Every once in a while a "little birdie" drops some knowledge on your Thrashers blogger. Today I learned that the turnstile attendance for the Thrashers-Islanders game last night was 8,000 and change.
Why is this news? Well for one thing the NHL "attendance" figure that is published in league box scores reports "tickets distributed" for that game, not the actual number of tickets that were scanned at the door. Everyone knows that the "attendance" figure announced for each game exaggerates the number of fannies in seats in most NHL cities.
What is unknown is the just how much the announced attendance differs from the actual turnstile figure. Last night's game had an announced attendance of 15,200, but the number of actual people in the building was about half that number.
How typical is this? Only team officials and owners know the answer to this question since the turnstile numbers are not released for public consumption.
I suspect that last night was unusually low because it "featured" a battle between two last teams in last place in their division. Unless your name is Tavares (likely #1 overall 2009 Draft pick), this match up simply was not very compelling. Even in the two years when they were still in the playoff race the Thrashers have always struggled to draw fans on weeknights due to the combination of urban sprawl, bad traffic and early start times.
I've commented on this before, but the quality of the hockey on ice hockey product matters. During the "Dead Things" era the Red Wings gave away a car each home game to lure people into the building (and now they're called Hockeytown). For almost a decade the Chicago Blackhawks (also an Original Six team) had mostly empty United Center for most home games. NHL teams are in the entertainment business and for 10 years the Thrashers have branded themselves as "losers" in an expansion market.
So what did the 8,000 people who showed up last night see? Well the Thrashers gave up a goal before I even got into my seat and they were down 4-0 after just 16 minutes. There were outshot 13-3 at one point in the 1st period. I left at the 2nd intermission because I had my own Adult League game to play that night. I know I wasn't the only one to depart at the 2nd intermission.
The few who stuck around saw the Thrashers score 4 goals and make it interesting, but it was too little, too late. Once again, they were just a big tease and fell 5-4 to the worst team in the NHL. Not exactly the sort of performance that attract more fans. The product must improve.