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:
|Toronto Maple Leafs||4||15137|
|New York Rangers||4||13852|
|Minnesota North Stars||3||13436|
|New York Islanders||4||13276|
|Los Angeles Kings||4||13172|
|Detroit Red Wings||4||12927|
|Chicago Black Hawks||4||12806|
|St. Louis Blues||4||12519|
* 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:
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!