That’s the question du jour. The Toronto Star has obtained a confidential National Hockey League report that shows that the six Canadian teams generate way more ticket revenue than the 24 U.S. NHL teams. Per the report, the six Canuck teams generated around 33-percent of the $1.2 billion U.S. in ticket dough raised by the League last year.
This would seem to suggest that Gary ‘Napoleon’ Bettman and his cronies should be thinking about shifting some of those money-losing teams in the southwest U.S. – hello Phoenix! – to the Great White North. The Star piece mentions that the Coyotes are losing $30 million a year!
But what interests us Habs nuts the most in the report is the news that the Montreal Canadiens generate more ticket revenue than any other club in the League. Nos Habs ring-up $2 million at the cash register for every home game and so that gives the team revenue last year of $82 million, not counting pre-season and playoff games.
That’s a lot of dough going to the private company run by the Molson brothers and it raises one rather obvious question – if the team has so much money, how come the Canadiens suck so bad? My pal Mike Finnerty raised exactly that query on Twitter earlier this morning – way too early for a holiday morning, I might add – and it’s a good question (hey that’s why Mike F. gets the big bucks!).
If it was just a year or two of mediocrity, you might just chalk it up to bad luck. But 18 years of cruddiness? I’m afraid that’s not even a trend. It’s the definition of an era for the club.
My crazy theory? We have too much money. We’re too rich. From Molson – the beer giant, not the bros – to ski-and-meat entrepreneur George Gillett to the Molson siblings – these owners don’t need to worry about fielding a competitive team for the very simple reason that all 21,000 seats at the Bell Centre are sold for premium dollars for every single game no matter how loserish the team is.
Look at the numbers in the report. The crap teams lose money. The article cites the case of the New York Islanders, who – astonishingly enough – have an even more mediocre record than the Habs over the past 18 years. The Isles’ revenue dipped 28-percent over the past five years – and this for a team that resides in the most lucrative media market in the country.
And the opposite is also true – the hot teams in the U.S. have been generating big bucks. So the Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins have seen big gains in their ticket sales cos they’ve fielded exciting winning teams.
Meanwhile here in Montreal, folks are happy to pay way too much to see a mediocre team that hasn’t won anything since 1993. The goal of the Gainer-Gauthier era has been – let’s battle to make 8th place.
(Actually right about now it looks like the goal of the Gauthier era is to save his butt – signing Josh Gorges for six years? What? Six years? And Gorges agent openly says his client would’ve accepted less money if Gauthier had signed him last summer like he should’ve! Insert swear word! Major Major will do anything to deflect attention away from what is shaping up as one of the worst seasons in the long storied history of the Canadiens. But I digress.)
Partly it’s cause we have fewer pro sports choices in Montreal than most major North American cities. We have the Habs, period. So we’ll put up with anything.
So how do you stop the slide? Do I need to tell you? Stop buying tickets until Geoff Molson finally steps up to the plate, gives the Ghost and Bob ‘What About Bob’ Gainey their walking papers, and gets to work building a team that can at the very least compete.