Coyotes Attendance – Again (Still?)

On Boxing Day, 2013, Twitter is again aflutter with Coyotes attendance and ticket sales conversations . Why?

Troll Food

Sarah McLellan’s Christmas Eve piece (click here) is an update from Coyotes CEO and President Anthony LeBlanc, in which he’s quoted as saying:

“I’m probably a little disappointed in where we are with attendance.”

That statement lit up the herd of trolls who gleefully typed their usual clever comments. It also lit up Coyotes fans offering assertions along the lines of “fans have to do better building attendance.”

Anthony LeBlanc (Phoenix Coyotes)

Anthony LeBlanc
(Phoenix Coyotes)

It is not a fan’s job to sell tickets. A fan’s job is to buy tickets and be entertained. I doubt Coyotes ownership expects “us” to build sales. A comment further along may have something to do with the assumption of expected help.

Some fans received Anthony’s following comment about support poorly, as if fingers were being pointed at the fans:

“There are some positives, but there’s a lot more work. We need stronger support.”

I understand the sentiment, but don’t believe that was the intent of the statement.

I’m 100% certain the Coyotes know they have to put their heads down and execute.

Fans have their own lives to lead and livings to be made so we can afford hockey tickets, our team provides a winning team on the ice and a great game experience. That’s the deal.

Counting tomorrow, we’re sixteen home games into a new Coyotes regime after four years of bankruptcy strife and years of neglect before that. Three of those sixteen games are sellouts. I think that’s pretty good, actually.

Even the normally “Coyotes are ridiculous” Wyshynski agrees (click here).

Freebies Or Marketing

A report was presented to the Glendale City Council on December 17 regarding team revenue to the city. Looking at those numbers, comparing them to announced attendance figures and doing some simple math reveals a “discrepancy”. Some have implied the Coyotes may be fudging their numbers or cheating on their 1,750 agreed upon (with Glendale) free tickets per game, I think that’s extremely unlikely.

Coyotes Playoff Hopes

More Of This Soon

Are there free tickets being handed out? Would that explain a “discrepancy”? Undoubtedly, on both counts.

My opinion is the “fewer free tickets” policy Mike Nealy worked out is a better long term solution than complimentary tickets, there’s Coyotes history that indicates freebies aren’t effective.

But, I’m neither a hockey business nor a marketing expert, Mr. LeBlanc is certainly the latter. I’m sure he and the Coyotes marketing people didn’t make that decision lightly.

Handing out freebies when there’s a stable future for the team is a lot different than handing them out when the team is bankrupt and under threat of relocation, so taking history at direct face value is flawed logic in this case.

How many tickets are being handed out? I don’t know. I do know many of those freebies went to season ticket holders to encourage them to bring along Coyotes newbies, a strategy that makes a lot of sense for building a dedicated fan base. We did our part with our allocation of those tickets and would gladly do it again.

Ticket Sales Less Important Now

Let’s again refer to a December 10 piece from Sarah (click here) that offers a clue why the hockey business isn’t as simple as counting butts in seats:

The Board of Governors, however, did approve the 12-year, $5.2 billion Canadian broadcast and multimedia rights agreement with Rogers Communication – the largest media rights deal in NHL history.

During their pursuit of the Coyotes, IceArizona predicted what their share from the TV contract would be but they didn’t anticipate a deal of this magnitude.

“We think it’s great,” Gosbee said. “That’s why we wanted to become part of the NHL and not just the Coyotes because these type of deals are very beneficial throughout the entire league. We were absolutely ecstatic about the deal from the Phoenix Coyotes standpoint.”

It’s a lot more money coming to the Coyotes than the ownership group used in their initial calculations. That TV deal was a real game changer for the better.

Does that mean attendance isn’t important? Of course not. The point is that ticket sales are not a “we don’t sell 15,000+ tickets, we’re out of here” thing right now. The additional revenue coming to the team from Canadian TV gives the Coyotes more flexibility to improve the team AND improve attendance in a realistic fashion.

Is 2014 too soon for a boom in attendance? I don’t think so. Sooner rather than later, the Cardinals will be exiting the NFL playoff picture. Interest in Phoenix will then focus more on the other two active professional sports, basketball and hockey.

As the traditionally better attended later season games come along, I think many of the doubts and gray areas will fade to black. Black ink, even.

Grow The Game, Fill The Seats

Also getting NO play from the headline reading Interwebs types is what Mr. LeBlanc had to say about building the fan base from the ground up:

“We really want to make some changes, and this is something I remember shortly after we closed, Shane Doan sat down with myself and one of my partners, Daryl Jones, and outlined his thoughts on how the Coyotes should be involved in minor hockey in the community. So we’ve already had a meeting with all the directors for youth hockey in the region, and we’re just trying to put an umbrella in place that we can all work closely together and enhance the sport.”

Uniforms Optional

Uniforms Optional

A bunch of Coyotes fans agree with Anthony, getting together to start Desert Hockey Development.

We have a different focus than most local youth hockey programs, aiming closer to the grass roots.

We’re targeting kids that don’t come from hockey families. These kids will likely not have the economic means to learn hockey unless they have some help. These kids might might not even be skating for awhile, but they’ll be learning hockey and leaving the rink with a smile and an appreciation for the game.

We know there’s an underserved group of kids in our back yard that will, hopefully, love hockey once they’re introduced to it.

We encourage people to join us, 2014 is going to be a blast with a lot of fun, rewarding work.

The Process Works

Sketch by @KDibildeaux

Detail from sketch by @KDibildeaux

Attendance is up double digits. Only people with bones to pick would say that’s not encouraging.

The team is doing well, although being part of the Western Conference makes their performance FEEL worse than it is because of the ridiculously great performance of the rest of the Western teams, especially those within the Coyotes’ Pacific Division.

Winning sells tickets, the team is winning. Confidence in the product sells suites, advertising and gigantic Canadian TV deals.

Relax, this success thing is happening.

Happy New Year to all.

Get well soon, Captain.



  1. […] Sarah Mclellan had a Christmas Eve piece that ruffled feathers on the Interwebs stemming from misinterpretation of statements from Anthony LeBlanc. I offered my opinion on December 26 in “Coyotes Attendance – Again (Still?)“. […]