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Ok, People, It’s time to be real fans…

It was tough to not get excited for the return of the Jets and I really, really tried to temper peoples’ expectations by pointing out that even though you, dear readers, projected them to miss the playoffs, they’d be even worse than that. I tried to keep expectations low for Mark Scheifele too…But I understood the excitement nonetheless.

If the texts and emails I got from people after Saturday night's game are any indication, the worst metaphor ever has come to pass: the luster has worn off the love affair. There was no difficulty selling all of this season's tickets, but I was wondering what things are going to look like if this team continues to stink.

I went back to the vault to get (home) attendance figures for the 1979-80 and 1980-81 teams, when Winnipeg was demonstrably the worst team in the league:

Opponent Games Attendance
Montreal Canadiens 3 15705
Philadelphia Flyers 4 15236
Toronto Maple Leafs 4 15137
Boston Bruins 3 14548
New York Rangers 4 13852
Vancouver Canucks 4 13510
Minnesota North Stars 3 13436
New York Islanders 4 13276
Buffalo Sabres 4 13192
Los Angeles Kings 4 13172
Detroit Red Wings 4 12927
Quebec Nordiques 2 12840
Chicago Black Hawks 4 12806
St. Louis Blues 4 12519
Atlanta Flames 2 12496
Washington Capitals 4 12423
Colorado Rockies 4 12350
Hartford Whalers 4 12186
Edmonton Oilers 2 12166
Pittsburgh Penguins 4 12137
Calgary Flames 2 11684

* seven games are missing: two Quebec, two Edmonton, one Boston, one Montreal and one Minnesota

I found this list fascinating – Edmonton and Calgary were awful draws (how could Calgary draw worse than when they were in Atlanta?) and the Islanders seem pretty far down for a team that was about to rout the league for four years. Attendance by day of the week is not surprising:

Day Games Attendance
Wed 13 12434
Fri 22 13428
Sat 7 14297
Sun 29 13317

Where was I going here? Winnipeg was 10th overall in the league in attendance in 1979-80 even though the upper deck of the Winnipeg Arena wasn't ready until December sometime. (Tickets averaged $10 per game, which was actually less than what people had paid to see them when they were in the WHA.) Attendance declined only slightly in 1980-81 even though the Jets at one point had won only one out of their first 33 games.

Memory is a funny thing. In the early days, they had 11,000 season ticket holders. But I remember the Jets having awful attendance, even in the playoffs – that didn't actually come until later, when the team was actually good. So I guess there's nothing to worry about…This team will not do well this year, but before the end of those five-year season ticket commitments, it'll be worth watching…So hang tough!

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