TDD: The Boys are Back in Town

And just like that, Adam Foote is back with the Avalanche. TSN is saying that the Avs got him for a first round pick, part of what is looking like a Blue Jackets fire sale (Fedorov to the Capitals).

To it’s looking like the old gang again. Now if only Rob Blake waives his no trade clause, we could have the trifecta of free agent defections back. Oh, what will Coach Q do with all these new guys? Hey, what’s Ozolinsh up to these days?

Greg from the Post Pessimist has a good point:

1996 was a great year, sure, but it may not be best to try and relive it.

I think he may have some stories to tell. Looks like things are shaping up for the Avs.

TDD: And Now it Picks Up

And as soon as I put up my last post, things start heating up. Brad Richards moves to the Western Conference, and Cristobal Huet goes to the Capitals. Brent Johnson, it’s been a pleasure knowing you.

10:24 AM MST: And now we have our first Avalanche trade, with the Avs picking up Ruslan Salei for Karlis Skrastins. Poor Skras. You have to wonder if his time in the NHL is coming to an end. Overall, to someone who doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the Eastern Conference, this looks like a good deal for the Avs. One stay at home defenseman for another, but Salei might have some legs left in him. And his name is shorter. Always a bonus.

Happy TDD!!!

Good Morning, and happy Trade Deadline Day, still a holiday at the Tapeleg house. I was excited enough to get up early and watch the action, including 5:30 AM. I didn’t even know they made a 5:30 AM. The internet at the hotel here is spotty, but holding up so far. Until then, I can sit and watch the action. So far, I’m not seriously excited about anything, seeing as how the big news for Avs fans happened yesterday, and there has been little happening in the Western conference. Unless the Brad Richards thing is going down. That could be interesting.

Here’s what I’m looking at all day:

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A few sites on auto refresh, and I a little other work in the background. Yep, I’m in total junkie mode today.

Forsberg is an Av

AH HAHAHAH!!!!!HAHAHAH!!!!!

There isn’t much else to say at this point. I don’t have anything witty at the moment, but it’s nice to be back in Denver, and going to an Avs game, when all of this is going down.

More Johnstown Pictures

I took a bunch of pictures from my time at the Johnstown Chiefs, but I thought the last post was long enough. Here are some more.

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You know it’s a tough crowd when the penalty box attendant gets heckled. From behind me I heard, “You throw like a girl.”

More hot dog tossing.

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This is a “bar” (beer stand with seating) at the end of the rink. As far as I can tell, it isn’t reserved seating, and I would have gone down here for a period, except that the people next to me were into talking hockey, and I wasn’t going to give that up.
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When the away team enters or exits the ice, they have to do so next to the Chiefs bench. Look at the step they have to take getting through the doorway. I would fall on my ass with a step like that on hockey skates. I bet the crowd goes wild when it happens.
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I believe that I saw the worst Zamboni work I have ever seen at this game. To be fair, the guy didn’t have a lot of time, as between period promotions pushed the time perilously close to the start of the next period, but I have never seen, and I have been to a lot of minor league rinks, anyone have to squeegee the ice this much.
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Notice that the ice and the building are not aligned. That would give me a headache.
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That’s it from Johnstown. Next up, Flyers vs. Pens from Sunday.

Johnstown Chiefs vs. Elmira Jackals: Hockey Shrine

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Welcome to Johnstown, PA. For a lot of hockey fans, it’s impossible to think of Johnstown as being it’s own town. The city has a double identity, shared with a mythical place of violence, hockey, bad hair, and horn-rimmed glasses. Johnstown will forever be confused with Charlestown, the fictional town that hosted the Charleston Chiefs, from the movie Slap Shot. If you have not seen Slap Shot yet, you are missing out, and I do not believe you. The movie plays on every bus that has ever carried hockey players, is the perfectly quotable hockey movie, and maybe the perfect hockey movie. Miracle has it’s shine and polish, Mystery, Alaska has it’s charm, and Youngblood has… um…. I’ll leave it at that. But Slap Shot has grit, blood, humor, and a reckless abandon with the script that could never make it to the screen today. If Slap Shot crossed the desk of a movie producer in this day and age, it would wind up in the trash.

I happen to be in Pittsburgh with a week off from work, and I love spending my off days searching out minor league hockey. There are plenty of NHL arenas and games to take in, but they don’t need my money, not like the teams and players toiling in the minors do. They play in sheds that are falling apart, with Zambonis that need more than a wrench put on them, and dressing rooms that could use more than a fresh coat of paint. They need the attendance, and they work hard for every dollar they can get. And they truly appreciate you showing up. When I say “you, I really mean you. Tell a person wearing a name tag at a minor league game how far you drove to see their team, and they will thank you for coming for hours, talk hockey with you, and maybe even bring you a puck. Trust me, it happens. These people are struggling to keep the team afloat, and I mean everywhere. Hockey doesn’t sell itself, no matter what the NHL teams believe.

When the opportunity to visit an icon of the game comes up, you take it. Johnstown had a game on a Friday night, and I could go. What else do I have to say. I grabbed my map, camera, and jersey, and got my butt to the Rink.

First, I had to eat, so I took a stroll down Main St.
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Is this where they had the parade at the end of the movie? I can’t tell.

I wound up eating at The Fish House, which is just a little hole in the wall with an old school look and feel to it. Two words: wood panelling. It turns out the place has been there for over thirty years, and was down the street before that, until the flood wiped the old place off the map. It also wiped the Johnstown Jets, the team the Chiefs were based on, off the map as well. From Wikipedia:

The Jets played four seasons total in the NAHL before the league folded in 1977. The team itself folded in the offseason, when the Johnstown flood of 1977 that damaged the arena’s ice making equipment.

The movie was released and the town was flooded in the same year.

Johnstown itself is exactly where the movie left off. The steel factories shut down, and the town has never recovered. The person sitting next to me at the game told me the biggest employer in Johnstown is the hospital. Walking down Main St, the only word I could use to describe the place was “Beat.”
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On to the Arena. First, I stopped along the way in a liquor store to pick up a few things for later. My jersey drew the attention of the man working the counter, and he started talking hockey with me. I got a quick rundown of the previous weekends games, one win in the shootout, and one loss in the shootout. The guy was telling me about the crowd, and how much hockey meant to the town. Another stop along the way back to the rink brought me inside the “Candy Store.” I don’t want to insult anyone, but the place was in need of some serious TLC. But they had a smattering of hockey items, including a few Starting Lineup figures from the late 90s, including Sandis Ozolinsh in 1997 and Joe Sakic holding the Stanley Cup. Mind you, they look surprisingly similar. Aside from the numbers on the back, you would think they were twins. Still, at $5 each, I couldn’t pass it up. The store owner bent my ear for a while. He’s concerned about the town, that it’s going down the drain, that younger people just pack up and disappear. He talked about the loss of hockey for the town, and told me how heartbreaking it was to see the team leave. He doesn’t wish that one anyone, but told me that people who bemoan their team should lose it for a year. “I’m still getting over it.”

Finally, I made it to the arena, in time for warmups. First, let me introduce the Mascot to you, Tom E. Hawk:
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There are about a hundred different ways to look at this. And I am not going to get into it here. I will say this. If you hire a mascot for hockey, make sure the person you hire can skate with a big head on.

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Can you imagine the opposition at an NHL game walking by you in the hall before the game? One simple fence keeping you from the players. You could say anything you wanted. You could taunt, poke, and prod them at will. Then you see a big ass goalie, and you think better of it. The crowd was really tame here, and I don’t blame them. The fence that keeps you from them may be the one that saves your life.

Welcome to the War Memorial.
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That black Budweiser sign is the goal light. Coolest. Thing. Ever.
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This is the barn. Nothing fancy, just a shrine of hockey. This was taken during warmups, so there are more people are going to show up.
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The home team gets off the ice, comes down this hall, and then turn to the right (your left)…
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And then head down the hall to the dressing room. The families, kids, and fans hang out to knock knuckles with the players as they pass by. And the players knock every single knuckle held out.

Every.
Single.
One.

It’s really cool. These guys are looked up to by the kids, and the fans love their team. You always hear of players in the NHL who snub fans and kids, and hey, those guys have more demands and more requests than these guys. But it takes so little. These are happy fans. It doesn’t take much.
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This is Tom E. Hawk throwing hot dogs out to the crowd. Yes, you read that correctly.

More arena shots:
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This guy is mad. Really mad.
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This guy is scared. Really scared.
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I don’t blame him. I would be scared too.

The good guys won the game (that would be the Chiefs), but oddly enough, there were no fights. I figured if you played for Johnstown, fighting was mandatory. So remember kids, it’s just a movie.
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Can you say, blow out? I knew you could.

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That’s about it. The experience was totally worth it. If you are happening by Johnstown, you should stop and see a game. You might even see a fight.

End of 1st: No Fights Yet



End of 1st: No Fights Yet, originally uploaded by Tapeleg.

..but the Chiefs are winning.

Hockey Pilgrmage



Hockey Pilgrmage, originally uploaded by Tapeleg.

Tonight, I am taking in a game at one of the shrines of hockey, seeing the Johnstown Chiefs take on the Elmira Jackels. We’re putting on the foil here at JAHL. Full report later, probably in the morning.

Avalanche Attendance: Other Reasons

I have been tearing up a storm (ie: beating a dead horse) writing about the downturn in attendance, and I do not feel the need to stop. Sure, the rest of the world may have moved on, but not me. I stand at the front lines, atop the wall, ready to do battle.

You have seen the ticket prices, know that the economy is committing suicide, and you still don’t buy it. You still think there must be some other reason. Here are some other reasons, like them or not, believe them or not, for the “attendance problems” the Avalanche are having. Some of them you may not really know about, or understand, without living in Denver.

Other sports, Major League: Baseball took it’s toll on Denver this year, with the unexpected run of the Colorado Rockies to the World Series. Playoffs mean more money for any sports franchise, and it has to come from somewhere. Don’t just stop at tickets, think about all the merchandise that was sold, parties that were had, and other money that was spent. The football season takes it’s piece of the pie every year, no matter what some would have you believe. And we are talking about the NFL here, not the CFL. To have someone from Calgary tell me how the football juggernaut works down here is silly. Then there are the Nuggets. Last season, the big splash for the Nuggets involved a blockbuster trade, drawing more “Denver Sports Fans” (a term for people who enjoy many sports and support the many teams in Denver) to basketball. The major league dollar, and the major league attention is getting spread thin. The Avalanche may not have had a budget to stick to, but regular people do.

Other sports, Smaller edition: Hey, you know what? There are other sports in Denver aside from the four big ones. In the Pepsi Center alone, there are the Mammoth (indoor lacrosse) and Crush (arena football). Around town, you have the Rapids (soccer), Outlaws (outdoor lacrosse), and plenty of college sports. Denver is one of the most saturated sports markets in the US.

Hey, what was that Mammoth thing again?: Yeah, perhaps you didn’t know, but lacrosse is taking the city over right now. After the success of the Mammoth, the city wound up with an outdoor lacrosse team. How successful are the Mammoth? They are the top team for attendance in the NLL, and they are ahead of the pack by an average of 2,500. And they have been leading the league for three years, and were second place the year before that. Unlike the Avalanche, they do some fun and interesting promotions, and they work hard for ticket sales and fans, much like a minor league hockey team. Hard to believe the team is owned by the same people. If this doesn’t take a bite out of hockey sales, I want to hear your take.

Other hockey: You may not realize this, but there are other options for hockey in Colorado. Sure, it isn’t NHL hockey, but it is still hockey, and pretty successful hockey at that. The Colorado Eagles, two time winners of the Central Hockey League championship, have been selling like mad for a few seasons now. In northern Colorado, they are very popular, and their arena is only 50 miles from the Pepsi Center. Even closer is the Rocky Mountain Rage, a new team in the Central Hockey League, and direct rival to the Colorado Eagles. The Rage currently are 2nd in the league, and first in their division. Their brand new arena is only 17 miles from the Pepsi Center, and only 14 miles from the heart of Boulder (less from the border). Like I said, it isn’t NHL hockey, but it is hockey, and a much less expensive ticket.

Soccer: They just built a new stadium for the Colorado Rapids, the MLS team. They have their own place. Can you believe that? More competition for the other sports in town.

Denver is expensive: Yeah, I know, it’s expensive to live everywhere. But the housing market in Denver is insane, rents shot up in the last ten years, and the cost of living is outgrowing the salaries. For example, from the Rocky Mountain News from June 27th, 2006:

Denver ranks No. 8 in the country in new cost-of-living rankings, with expensive groceries but cheap utility bills and booze.

Denver is tied with Minneapolis and – surprisingly – ahead of Boston, Seattle and Honolulu in the report released Monday by the publisher of the Economist magazine.

While not everyone agrees with the Economist, it’s significant that the study mentions Denver. Not cheap. Not Boston, New York, or San Francisco, but not cheap

Injury: The top three forwards are out, two of them long term. This isn’t the same as Jordan Leopold being out for most of a season. Joe Sakic is the face and heart of the franchise, and he is out until April. Ryan Smyth is out until March. Sure, there is still a team being iced, but I am still interested in seeing the those guys, and I don’t feel like I get my money’s worth if the three major scoring forces are out.

Troubling trends: You would be hard pressed to find fans that have been paying attention who would tell you that the Avalanche have been making all the right moves lately. Even I would tell them to lay off the kool-aid. Money woes tied to the salary cap may have been a factor in the last few seasons, but making smart personnel moves, spending wisely, and making good on ice decisions are the new name of the game, and we all know it. But the fans have had a hard time digesting some of the moves made in the past couple of years. While dodging the bullet of the meltdown that David Aebischer had was a blessing, the acquisition of Jose Theodore has been a dividing line between the team and many of it’s fans. Seen as a lack of commitment to winning, the Theodore move was made even more grating when he was caught holding hands with Paris Hilton. Suddenly, this team of quiet men became loud and brash, and the personality that was emboddied by Joe Sakic was eroding away quickly, even before the season started. The lack of good play, followed by the lack of an offseason buyout had more fans questioning the move, and the commitment of the team. Then there is coach Quenneville. a conundrum to most Avs fans. If there is one thing every fan thinks they know, no matter what sport, it’s line combinations. Coach Q keeps them juggled. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t show much knowledge of how to handle goalies, and is believed (by some) to be the catalyst that sent Abby down the sliding path.

Television: National television is what it is, and that’s fine. The Avalanche broadcast all of their games that are not nationally televised on their own cable network, Altitude, which also carries the Nuggets, Mammoth, and other sports. But wait, the key word here is cable. It wasn’t that long ago that you could find the games on regular broadcast stations. I wouldn’t call the coverage at the time comprehensive, but it still existed, and was free of charge. Now you have to go looking, have cable (which most people do, but not everyone), and know where to look. If the Nuggets and Avalanche are playing at the same time, the Avalanche usually get bumped to the second tier network, “Altitude 2,” which is only used at times like these. It makes it harder for the casual fan, and not the rabid one who writes about hockey, to find the games. Less broadcast exposure over the free airwaves is bad for any sport. There’s a reason the NFL moved an important Patriots game to two broadcast networks, and off it’s own NFL Network. It’s a good thing that every Avs game is broadcast, since so many other markets have PPV games, but a regular over-the-air broadcast may not hurt.

All of these are compelling reasons for there to be a drop in attendance, and while each one may not do much individually, taken together they can have significant impact.

Does this mean that we can maybe lower some ticket prices and build some new fans? Get the old fans back to the arena?

No. Quite the opposite in fact. From the Denver Post:

The Avalanche has notified season-ticket holders by mail that prices will go up for the 2008-09 season. The top price, only for row 1 along the glass, is scheduled to increase from $190 to $196 per game, and the bottom price, for the upper end balcony, will be raised from $22 to $23.

Prices going up? Attendance problem, what problem? These are the season ticket prices, but if there is an increase here, expect it at the individual ticket level. Season ticket holders are the bread and butter. If they don’t feel they are getting enough of a deal on their packages, you can expect to hear about it.

The other 2008-09 prices, and their corresponding figures for this season:

• Rinkside $134 ($130).

• Prime loge $111 ($108).

• Club corner $106 ($103).

• Club end $96 ($93).

• Corner loge $94 ($91).

• End loge $85 ($83).

• Lower center balcony $62 ($60).

• Upper center balcony $51 ($50).

• Lower corner/end balcony $42 ($41).

• Corner balcony/mid-end balcony $36 ($35).

Hey, look, more numbers. Again, from the article, these are season ticket numbers. Some have only gone up by a dollar, but thats for 41 games, and no one has just one season ticket package. And with the play of late, how many people are going to wonder if they get their moneys worth?

Avalanche Attendance: Straight From the Horses Mouth

It doesn’t take much for me to get off on a tangent these days. I don’t know why, but it seems like I see something I don’t like, or something I think is flat out wrong, and I don’t feel like letting it go.

Greg Wyshynski’s AOL FanHouse post about the attendance at the Avalanche games is one such example. I wasn’t very happy with his post, and have already shown some examples of the ticket prices, and how they compare to other teams in the league, in similar situations, and in situations that tracked closer to the Avalanche a few years ago.

One of the things the comparison lacked was what the prices laid out on ticketmaster actually translated to. What seats, for how much, and how many are there. Well, this post aims to correct that.

From the ticket information page on the Colorado Avalanche website:

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I called the box office (again, how hard is the research here? not hard at all), to see what they meant by “Season Ticket Single Game.” I was told, while they were looking at the same numbers as I was, that these were the prices that would be paid walking into the box office and buying a ticket for a single game. So, now that you see the prices, what do you get for your money?
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There’s your seating chart, with color coding as to where the prices translate to. Notice that those $26 dollar tickets are in the last five rows (info from the box office again) on the ends of the upper bowl. If you don’t want to sit on the ends, you will cough up $57 dollars.

Where did the Fan Cost Index get their average ticket price? Oh, yeah, from the season ticket prices, and only the ones that are not considered luxury suites.

Average ticket price represents a weighted average of season ticket prices for general and club-level seats, determined by factoring the tickets in each price range as a percentage of the total number of seats in each stadium. Luxury suite sales are excluded from the survey. Season-ticket pricing is used for any team that offers some or all tickets at lower prices for customers who buy season tickets.

These days, just about every ticket can be considered luxury.

At this time, I cannot give you an average ticket price for each seat in the house, because I don’t have the number of seats sold at each price level, but the average ticket price across the available prices is $94.25. Take out the club seat prices, and you have an average of $92. That’s a far cry from the $38.48 the FCI claims. In fact, according to the Avs own website, there is only one ticket price below the FCI average.

What about those of us who are cheap? I have sat in the club level twice, and lower level once, but my income puts me squarely in the balcony. The average price in the balcony is $47.06. Again, well above the number the FCI works with. To sit in the lower level, you aren’t getting in for less than $93. The average price for the “loge” – AKA lower bowl – is $134.40. Again, I’m just using the numbers provided by the Avalanche on their own website.

What does this mean? Well, let’s talk about what is being said by the bloggers. From the Wyshynski post:

Dater writes that Denver’s economic downturn is a primary factor, but it’s not like the Avalanche were fleecing fans to begin with. The last Fan Cost Index from Team Marketing Report had Colorado below the League average and even the Islanders and Blue Jackets.

Since the FCI is being invoked as the backbone of the pricing conclusion made, it’s the FCI I have a problem with. Other people have problems with the FCI as well. This is from Baseball Prospectus. While I don’t know much about the site, it shows that someone else has looked at the FCI, which looks at the four big sports, and was not impressed:

One of the biggest weaknesses in the FCI is its use of “average-priced tickets” as a benchmark. By using the price paid by season-ticket holders for a particular seat, even if the price is higher when the seat is sold on a per-game basis, the FCI understates the cost of tickets for the average fan. Moreover, in many markets the “average-priced ticket” is irrelevant to the actual options available for casual fans attending a game on short notice, who must either buy from scalpers or wind up in the cheap seats. Last year 10 clubs sold fewer than half their available tickets, while the Giants, Cubs and Red Sox played to over 90% of capacity.

Oh, good, I’m not the only one who thinks the FCI is a problem. Well, that and the attitude of some people that there is no way money could be a reason for fans not to buy tickets. I mean, it’s not like the economy is in trouble, or people are having money problems, right?

Faced with growing risks of recession, the Federal Reserve made its second deep interest-rate cut in a week and slashed a key short-term rate by a half-percentage point Wednesday.

Oh…

The Federal Reserve’s decision to cut interest rates by a half-percentage point Wednesday sent the dollar lower against the euro and the yen, but the Fed is not the only problem for an already battered dollar.

That can’t be good.

The dollar sank to a two-month low against a basket of currencies on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve cut benchmark interest rates a half percentage point and warned more may be needed to support the faltering U.S. economy.
The move comes just eight days after the U.S. central bank unexpectedly cut its lending rate by three quarters of a point to boost an economy battered by a deep housing slump and a persistent credit crisis.
“The language in the (Fed’s) statement was fairly strong, suggesting the Fed is still worried with the possibility of further deterioration in the U.S. economy,” said Mark Meadows, analyst at Tempus Consulting in Washington, D.C.

OK, so I see a trend here.

But you know, it can’t be the economy or anything. I mean, a recent downturn in the economy, that couldn’t explain what’s going on in Detroit, or Colorado, or New Jersey, or Nashville, or any other city. Hey, remember when, not too long ago, it was the Canadian cities that had problems, and the Canadian dollar was blamed. It was even reported that players did not want to be signed to Canadian teams because it translated to lower salaries due to the weakness of the Canadian dollar.

I don’t know what the FanHouse is paying these days, but for most people, NHL hockey tickets are luxury items. They aren’t as necessary as food, shelter, or car payments. But for some reason, the attendance issue couldn’t possibly be about money. I mean, the FCI says so. It’s all affordable, right?

Yeah, not so much.

I have some more spunk in me still. I don’t think I’m done. Next, more reasons for the Avs to have attendance problems, some of which deal with money, and some of which don’t.