Why Did the Senators Have Empty Playoff Seats?

The Ottawa Senators were one game away from the Stanley Cup Finals, but a lot of talk surrounding the team was about the empty seats in Ottawa.

This has caused people to speculate on why the Canadian Tire Centre did not sell out. The most popular ones are ticket prices are too high, Ottawa is not a big enough market, the city doesn’t care about hockey, and the Senators are boring. Before I take a closer look at each of these, I would like to say the less than 2,000 empty seats is not a big deal in my opinion. It is not a huge amount and the money generated from TV deals, streaming, merchandise, suites, and sponsors is far more valuable than tickets sold.

Ottawa Is Not a Hockey Market

This one has to be the most absurd. Since the Senators moved to the Canadian Tire Centre, they have averaged 18,037 fans. That is 91.5% of the building. Go back to the 2014-15 playoffs where the attendance was 20,500 for all three games. We could go through Ottawa’s history all day and see nothing but the fact that Ottawa has supported their team. The Senators’ playoff run has also been at the top of the tv ratings.

The Prices Are Too High

First no matter how low or high a price is, no person or community should be shamed or looked down upon for not being able to afford it. When the Senators made the playoffs in 2014-15, average ticket prices were around $140 according to SeatGeek, which is a quite the pretty penny. When we look at the tickets for 2016-17, we see a range of $74 to $118 average ticket price for the first two rounds. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Senators shot for the fences with average ticket prices of $171 to start, but they continued to drop until the end of the series where it was at $88. The tickets decreased for the most part, so I can not buy the prices were too high argument.

Ottawa Is Not a Big Enough Market

The city of Ottawa has a growing population of 970,000. It has one of the largest city populations in the NHL, although the metro population is lacking with about 1.3 million people. The median income is $102,000 dollars. These numbers are from the City of Ottawa’s website. From how it appears on the surface, Ottawa is a suitable and fine hockey market.  

Ottawa Is Boring

I’ll be honest, I don’t find Guy Boucher’s Senators the most exciting. If it wasn’t for Erik Karlsson, I would probably avoid their games. I can’t imagine though that the team is that boring that people didn’t bother to watch. This is still a team that has a generational talent in Karlsson, a goalie that put on quite a show with Anderson, and some good players like Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone. Game 7 on Thursday was one of the best hockey games of the playoffs.

Why I Think the Senators Have Empty Seats

I think it comes down to a lack of marketing and hype. Let’s look at the Senators this year. They finished 2nd in their division, but when we look at it by conference they were the 6th seed. Out of all playoffs team, they were 13th. At the trade deadline, they made small additions like Alex Burrows, Tommy Wingels, Jyrki Jokipakka and Viktor Stalberg. The team also shipped out one of their recent first round picks, Curtis Lazar. Small additions while shipping out a former top prospect generates zero hype.

Complete Senators Roster and Contracts, including Prospects

Their first two matchups were against the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. Both were very low on my watch list as all the other series were more exciting or at least looked like better options. The Senators battled their way quietly to the Conference Finals, while most people were jumping on the Predators bandwagon or wondering what is wrong with the Capitals. Now, the Senators play against the defending Stanley Cup champs, who are once again favorites to win the Cup. People don’t believe a “mediocre” team can do it so why pay attention? In Game 5 against the Penguins, they got blown out 7-0. That didn’t set the bar high for Game 6 in Ottawa.

Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators, NHL, Milestones
Andrew Hammond (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

There was simply no hype around the team. I’m sure most people expected them to just barely miss or make it as a low seed then exit early. Look at the 2014-15 Senators, they made an amazing late season comeback. You had the incredible Andrew Hammond, Hamburglar story. They made the playoffs, got knocked out quick, but the hype was there and people paid attention and more importantly bought tickets.