The Winnipeg Jets are feeling the heat of being at a home ice disadvantage.
With arena attendance at an all-time low this season, teams are looking to fans for help.
For this week’s game between the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights, fewer than 12,000 fans filled Canada Life Center, filling just 80 per cent of the 15,000 seats available.
Excluding the pandemic, Tuesday night’s turnout of 11,226 is considered the lowest since the team returned from Atlanta 12 years ago.
TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger said the low attendance numbers aren’t surprising.
“This is not new. This is a post-COVID issue, so it’s been an issue for the Winnipeg Jets,” he says. “The bigger concern is what happens if things don’t turn around.”
Former Jets season ticket holder Ryan Bright said he wanted to know what would get fans back in the stands. But he also gave up his season tickets this year for the first time since the Jets moved back to Winnipeg.
“We were so excited when they came back, and this is the first year without them,” he said.
Bright said he has been experiencing customer service issues recently and has lost his passion for watching the Jets play.
“Prices continue to rise, but the characters remain the same.”
Drager says rebuilding the team is not realistic.
“This organization cannot afford to rebuild,” Draeger said. “What they need is for the fans and maybe Canadian companies to embrace this product on the ice, and that’s almost always a very good thing.”
The team is keeping key players on the ice and moving forward, recently extending the contracts of Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck.
Still, some observers say the real issue is affordability.
“Everything that people are experiencing in the world is going up,” says Evelyn Jacks, founder and CEO of the Knowledge Bureau. “The choices people have to make today are real, and sometimes it means sacrificing some of their entertainment.”
Bright said he expects the organization to work to reconnect with its fan base to regain support from the stands.
“I don’t want the Jets to leave. And I don’t know if my money will save them,” he said.
CTV News reached out to True North Sports and Entertainment for comment, but they declined to comment on the lack of fans in the stands.