The mediocre nuggets averaged 17,284 home visitors. That’s number 16 in the NBA.
The avalanche resurrected averages 15,950. This is the 22nd in the NHL.
The relative checkout numbers surprise me.
By Sunday morning we already knew that one of Denver’s teams – the Avalanche – would be playing in New Jersey in the first few days of February. I assume it was a coincidence that the NHL Colorado traveled Monday, February 3rd, against the Devils in Newark, 10 miles from MetLife Stadium, and against the Rangers in Manhattan the next evening.
This is part of a four game road trip that will be an additional test of the legitimacy of the avalanche. It will be more difficult after the Olympic break from February 9th to 25th, when the Avalanche will end the regular season with 24 games in 47 days. Half will be home games. We will not only see whether the Avalanche can secure a playoff spot, but also to what extent the box office business picks up.
It has been an amazing turnaround so far under coach Patrick Roy, who turned down a chance to return in 2009 before saying yes this time around.
“I’ve known for a while that I was ready for this,” said the Avalanche coach last week. “At the same time, I was waiting for the right timing. The avalanche was the right situation. … I have so much respect for our fans, so much respect for this organization. If you’ve played 10 years in Montreal and 8 years in Denver, these are the two organizations I have to admit to find a challenge. ”
The avalanche was masked a little by the Broncos season, both from fan base and the Colorado media, with vehicles on automatic pilots to Dove Valley and Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (I see. I don’t knock on it.) Up to a point, this is the annual routine for both the Avalanche and the nuggets, which are more on the radar after the end of the football season. Additionally, NBA and NHL attendance figures include season ticket bases and single game off-season ticket sales that are tied to the previous season.
Nonetheless, it still raises eyebrows that the nuggets outdo the avalanche in the fight against Stan Kroenke’s own teams during the Broncomania effect on both teams. The Pepsi Center’s basketball capacity (19,115) is greater than hockey (18,007), and each team has had three sales, but the full house numbers alone cannot explain the nuggets’ benefit. I got both teams covered and the eye test confirmed the nuggets are still a hotter ticket.
This will not mean that the avalanche “deserves” more support when buying tickets. Nobody who comes in free of charge with a press pass can “judge” consumers’ purchasing decisions.
I’ll never accept this ridiculous argument that attendance for a bad team has been going down over the past few seasons, and now the lag effect proves Denver isn’t a “real” hockey market. That argument was never made when Original Six franchises (e.g. Boston, Chicago and, yes, even Detroit) fought at the gates not so long ago.
The conditions are different than when the Avalanche had, at least officially, a streak of 487 games from 1995-2006. The relatively box office-dependent NHL has high ticket prices, at least when they’re not discounted on specials, and that’s a handicap.
As the season ticket base deteriorated and fans realized they could choose between games, attendance numbers were less interesting than before. Many past repeat customers can stay home and watch games in HD and circle some appointments on the schedule to go to the Pepsi Center.
But I’ll admit that I expected the impact of the turnaround of the avalanche to be more immediate and significant at the box office. Don’t judge. Just saying.
Terry Frei: tfrei @ denver post.com