This past week, CBC’s Compass did a story on the low-attendance numbers of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) P.E.I. Rocket in Charlottetown, despite the fact that they have a very competitive team this year.
Marketing may be an area where the Rocket could improve, and if they need an example of what marketing can do for a team then they should look no farther than the Summerside Storm of the National Basketball League (NBL) of Canada.
Since their arrival last year, the Storm has done a tremendous job in the marketing department, and has been very active in the community right across P.E.I.
One has to remember that the Storm arrived without a single fan, and has built a fan base to the second-highest in the National Basketball League of Canada. The Storm averaged well over 2,000 fans in this year’s first two home games (this average did not include Friday’s home game against Moncton).
Two games does not make a season, but I will not be surprised to see this Storm team do well at the gate for the rest of the regular season, and fill Eastlink Arena come playoff time – providing they continue to be a contending team.
It’s all about marketing for the Storm. Just this past week we saw big ads in both Island daily newspapers advertising last night's game. We saw a big picture in The Guardian this week of the Storm visiting Queen Charlotte Intermediate School in Charlottetown, where players gave out some basketball tips and had some fun with the students.
Do you think any of those students attended last night's game, or will take in a game in the near future?
They may even jump on the bus in Charlottetown for transportation to Summerside to take in the game. Should one be surprised that the bus is supplied by the Storm?
I have been doing this column for a little over two years, and I can honestly say that I have received more emails and correspondence from the Storm in one week than I have from all other organizations or teams. It is no secret folks – this Storm organization lets the media know what they are doing, and when and where they are doing it.
This organization deserves a lot of credit for what they have done for the sport in our province. One of the many things there is to like about the Storm is the fact that the entire organization tries very hard to make their product and the NBL of Canada accessible and a success.
They have set the bar in the marketing department, and there is a lot to be learned from the Storm in the way they do business.
When you look at attendance numbers throughout the 18-team QMJHL, there certainly is a big difference between the top-drawing teams and the worst-drawing teams.
As far as Maritime teams go, the Halifax Mooseheads are always the top draw, and this year is no exception. They are the No. 1 team in the league in points, and average over 8,200 fans per game. Their attendance numbers are second only to the Quebec Remparts, who draw an average of 10,300 fans to the Colisée in Quebec City.
Being the two biggest markets certainly has a lot to do with high attendance numbers in both Halifax and Quebec. The bottom two teams as far as average attendance goes are the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, averaging just over 1,500 fans per game, and the Rocket, who average 1,691 fans at the Charlottetown Civic Centre.
With the break-even point in the league around 2,200 or greater per game, one can only wonder how long the losses can mount in both Bathurst and Charlottetown?
These two teams have been at the bottom of the attendance numbers for a number of years.
It does not seem that long ago since Murray Harbor native Brad Richards made his NHL debut, but already he is closing in on a local milestone.
Richards has 854 career NHL games played, and trails only Alan MacAdam, who has played 864 career games. Eleven more games and Richards will become the career leader in NHL games played by a P.E.I.-born player.
Bob MacMillan (753), Gerard (Turk) Gallant (615) and Errol Thompson (599) round out the top five.
MacAdam is from Morell and was known as the ‘Morell Meteor.’ I believe he may have been given that name by late Journal-Pioneer columnist John (The Realm) McNeill.
McNeill often referred to Errol Thompson as the ‘St. Eleanor's Flash.’
It will be interesting to see just what takes place over the next couple of weeks with the NHL lockout. The players must really be missing their paycheques.
They are now talking about union decertification, but one thing is for sure – the longer this goes, the worse off the players will be. Did you know that a $5-million-a-year player would clear over the course of the season an average of about $45,000 per week?
For the players with lavish lifestyles, one would think with the huge financial commitments they would have, they would be starting to miss those huge deposits to their bank accounts.
Serious money is being lost by both sides, and in fact the NHL loses about $18-20 million in revenues for each day of the lockout. If there was no lockout, we would be watching a Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader of Vancouver at Montreal and a late game of Edmonton at Calgary tonight (Saturday).
Can you imagine having $45,000 per week deposited into your bank account?
It’s hard to feel sorry for the players.
Have a great week!
Joe MacIntyre is a Summerside resident. His column appears every Saturday. Comments and suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.