Although it is not unusual for the winning Red Wings to make the front page of the local papers, they were presented by Detroit Free Press
writer, Tom Walsh on 12/11/07 in a less than winning light (Filling Empty Seats in Hockeytown: Red Wings Bring in Exec to Combat Sagging Attendance
). This article can be found online at http://www.freep.com
It appears the purpose of the article was to introduce Michigan native, late of the Preds organization, Steve Violetta, who will be the Wings new senior vp for biz affairs. His job will be to get more folks into the Joe, even though actual ticket sales run about 90% of capacity. Unfortunately, there wasn't much analysis by Walsh and he relied mostly on SI
writer Michael Farber's recent vapid Hockeytown piece for source material.
Another major irritant was a large picture which showed a section of the arena with few fans and a lot of empty space. While that may be a true shot, the caption stated it was a "preseason game." It seems rather disingenuous to extrapolate that to poor attendance during the regular season. However, the Free Press
apparently gave up fact checking and proof reading long ago (read any article about horses and you will discover 'hay' and 'straw' are synonyms at the freep), as the online caption of the same photo claims it was taken on opening day. Which is it?
But, getting back to the article, one could hardly think of Walsh as a crack investigative reporter in his attempt to pinpoint the problem of diminished attendance without once mentioning fan dissatisfaction with the schedule, Gary Bettman, and the lousy national tv coverage consisting of Versus and no ESPN
However, the fans did mention it. When I looked yesterday, posted online comments to this piece ran 10 pages. I've never seen so much commentary to any article in the Free Press
. Several fans mentioned Ted Lindsay's comments last week to the Canadian Press
, which can be read at: http://canadianpress.goog...mwCAP8s-u1fRZSQ7EmvOdHDDQ
Too bad Lindsay's comments didn't get broader media coverage because he hit the nail on the head. Wings fans are angry at Bettman and feel he is to blame for a lot of hockey's ills. In particular, Wings fans are angry at the current schedule which has sent the Wings continually packing for repeated trips three time zones away. As Lindsay said, Wings fans don't like to feel they are being taken advantage of to help prop up expansion teams. Wings fans are angry that, in reality, we never getting a chance to see our traditional rivals on a regular basis. And if live game entertainment dollars are limited, Wings fans are not going to spend them to see Columbus and Nashville - over and over and over and over.
Oh sure, the schedule changes a bit next year and we will be in our time zone more, but we need to see Montreal and Toronto more than once a year.
Further, we have the lousy Bettman created national tv situation. Fox Sports Detroit is one of the highest rates sports channels in Michigan because they carry the Wings, Pistons, and more than a few college hockey events. Yet, when after several YEARS we finally get to play Montreal last week the game is put on Versus, which means the majority of Wings fans could not watch it.
In case Bettman wasn't aware, the Wings are currently at the top of the league standings. Why would anyone think it great PR to make it next to impossible for most Wings fans to see their top team play a traditional rival? One could never fathom MLB making it that difficult for local fans to see their top teams like the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or yes, the Tigers. And if you can't see your team on tv on a regular basis because of a lousy away schedule, or lousy tv coverage, or home games with the same old,same old, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why it is hard to drum up interest in actually going to a game.
And that is apart from the state of the Michigan economy. Bring in teams like Montreal or Toronto and you will sell every ticket,regardless of price. But, unless the owners take charge and do something - getting on ESPN would be a start - then a lot of this talk of dissatisfaction with the product is nothing but a circular discussion, about it and about.
"Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about; but evermore
Came out by the same Door as in I went."
-- from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Omar Khayyam / Translated by Edward FitzGerald