Jets: We Need More Bums in the Seats

Empty Canada Life Centre CTV News

Houston, we have a problem.

Here are the Winnipeg Jet attendance figures for the three seasons before “bubble” play in 2020-21, according to ESPN.com:

SeasonAverage AttendanceNHL Rank
2017-1815, 32126th
2018-1915,27625th
2019-2015,79426th

Yes. We are a small market team. In fact, we have the smallest arena capacity in the entire league (soon to be the second smallest once the Coyotes play their first home game next September). The fact that we were not 31st in any of those seasons speaks to the passion that Jet fans have for their team. In 2019-20, we outsold the Devils, Panthers, and the Islanders. It has been this way since the team relocated here in 2011. And if we look at the percentage of capacity, the Jets finish near the top of the league.

Season% of CapacityNHL Rank
2017-18102.15th
2018-19102.15th
2019-20108.23rd

Now let’s look at this last season:

SeasonAverage AttendanceNHL Rank% of Capacity
2021-2212,71628th84.8

Ouch. Right? Remember the good old days (2011) when 13,000 season tickets sold out in 17 minutes? And another 8,000 people paid a non-refundable $50 just to have the privilege of being on a waiting list? Distant memory. No need for marketing back then. How much do this year’s numbers hurt? The average ticket price in Winnipeg is $95.50. Multiply that by the difference between our average attendance three years ago to today, and you get a whopping $12,051,909. Painful. And then add in 3000 fewer people buying hotdogs, beer, and merch each night, and you get a better picture of why the Jets suddenly need to employ a superhuman marketing department—also, 3000 fewer people parking vehicles downtown and visiting bars and restaurants for 41 nights a year. 

So how did we get here? Well, there have been a few factors that likely led to a decline in attendance. 

Ticket Pricing?

Jet fans have long understood that we have some of the highest ticket prices in the NHL. Size does matter, and we have a small rink, so the cost was justified early on. Concessions too. Beer and popcorn aren’t cheap in Winnipeg. Lower bowl tickets, parking, and concessions are an easy $500 evening for two people. We are beginning to see the start of what is likely a recession. Inflation, either due to the pandemic or the war in Ukraine, has driven the cost of everyday items through the ceiling. There is only so much cash to go around.

Fatigue?

The Jet’s are not the hot ticket in town anymore. New and shiny got old and dull a few years ago. The Bombers just won back-to-back Grey Cups (Canadian Football League for you Americans). Unless we are winning (more on that in a bit), people have chosen to spend their disposable income elsewhere or just stay home. The pandemic also wreaked havoc with our schedule. Seasons started late. Games were cancelled and rescheduled. Are fans just tired?

The Plague?

I know—worldwide pandemic. I like the term Plague better. We couldn’t attend a Jets game two years ago. You think that absence would have made the heart grow fonder. With pandemic restrictions reduced this last season, we could finally watch games in person. When I initially saw our low average attendance issues, I assumed it was because of provincial restrictions placed on businesses during the wave in January and February. But that wasn’t the case. While games were rescheduled or delayed, attendance numbers were only diminished for four games. January 25 and 27 were limited to only 250 spectators, while February 8 and 14 were cut in half. Removing these four games from the total still left our average attendance at only 13,684. Did the ongoing mask rule affect sales? Probably.  Anti-vaxxers weren’t happy. But in reality, ticket sales were beginning to drop before the Plague rolled into town.       

On Ice Play?

The Jets sucked this year. Yup. I just said that. Jet fans deserved better. Ten years ago, an 89-point season was okay. Not now. And especially with how we looked on paper. This team should have been better. Not only that, but Winnipeg fans also expect, at minimum, hard work. At times this year, it was evident a 100% effort was lacking. We are the Green Bay Packers of the NHL. Lunchbucket, blue-collar people. If the puck isn’t going in the net and you aren’t winning games, you put your head down and skate harder. Backcheck. Hit. Fight. We didn’t see it.

In Winnipeg, there was a time when a sellout only happened if an original six team was visiting. Or Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux was in town. That hasn’t happened for a long time. The Jets sold out the downtown arena for seven straight seasons starting in 2011. This year, there is only a noticeable bump in attendance when a trendy team comes to town. Likewise for weekend games versus Tuesday night affairs. Not much difference.

Is Jet management nervous? I guarantee it. They could do as they please and charge what they want for ten years. Not anymore. All kinds of ticket options have been flooding email inboxes during the last year and continue towards next season: weekend packs, end-of-season packs, family packs, and theme packs. The list goes on and on. There have been reduced costs, at times, for concessions. I know that the Jets are reaching out to previously waitlisted customers and offering them discounts to purchase tickets regardless of their status.

So, a combination of poor performance, the pandemic, and unrealistic pricing have likely contributed to where we are now. As someone who lived through our team leaving in 1996, this makes me a little nervous. Do I think that is a risk again? Right now, no. But we are getting perilously close to troubled times in Winnipeg. Consider this, our average attendance during the 17 seasons of Winnipeg Jets 1.0  was 12,994. And we know what that got us.

Yes, Houston. We may have a problem. And Houston wants an NHL team…

Winnipeg Jets Attendance By Game 2021-22 (www.thescore.com)

DayDateAttendanceOpponent
ThuOct 2113886Anaheim
SatOct 2314020Nashville
TueNov 213174Dallas
FriNov 513756Chicago
SatNov 613424Islanders
TueNov 914004St. Louis
ThuNov 1114229San Jose
SatNov 1313776LA
TueNov 1613473Edmonton
MonNov 2213570Pittsburgh
MonNov 2914129Arizona
FriDec 313844New Jersey
SunDec 514461Toronto
TueDec 713761Carolina
TueDec 1413484Buffalo
FriDec 1714039Washington
SunDec 1913524St. Louis
TueJan 25250Florida
ThuJan 27250Vancouver
TueFeb 87012Minnesota
MonFeb 147511Chicago
WedFeb 1612527Minnesota
ThuFeb 1713071Seattle
SatFeb 1912360Edmonton
TueMar 113816Montreal
FriMar 413466Dallas
SunMar 612867Rangers
TueMar 812925Tampa
TueMar 1513470Vegas
FriMar 1814191Boston
TueMar 2213690Vegas
ThuMar 2414175Ottawa
FriMar 2513475Columbus
SunMar 2713825Minnesota
SatApr 214067LA
WedApr 613484Detroit
FriApr 813900Colorado
SunApr2414443Colorado
WedApr 2713383Philadelphia
FriApr 2914202Calgary
SunMay 114443Seattle

Rick Haley

Never drafted. Scored a Gordie Howe hat trick in a table hockey game. Glue guy. Good in the room. SK100 and Sherwood PMP. Winnipeg Jets hockey writer at www.insidetherink.com

5 thoughts on “Jets: We Need More Bums in the Seats

  1. I would rather spend 40.00 $ a seat ( or less ) For 4 seats have the best seats in the house and take my family at a affordable price and watch the MB Moose play , I was on hold for Jets tickets the first year I went to many Moose games before the Jets came back and willing to pay for season tickets for the Jets, but they snubbed me and gave some people up to 8 season tickets people who didn’t even support the Moose and now they are calling I will never pay the price they are asking should of been more loyal to some real hockey fans screw them and their not very good team

    1. Good point. I didn’t even touch upon that aspect. The Moose and the Winnipeg Ice are also viable options and a hell of a lot cheaper!

  2. Your numbers are quite unofficial from ESPN. I noted few empty seats at many games. And, quite often, the empty ones are paid for but not attended for various reasons. I suggest you contact the Jets office and obtain the actual numbers.

  3. Don’t know what u got, till it’s gone. Like 96′,..people have short memories. If u building only holds 15,000, the amenities have to cost more. And if u want to complete u need to spend to the cap. Every year. If the team makes the playoff past round 2,3 the owners make their money back. So stop bitching about the cost. U want the NHL n the best players? Pay up. Typical wpg. CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP.

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