Friday, December 5, 2014

Concern over attendance figures? . . . Some wine in Spokane . . . Rankin red hot for Hitmen

“During the seven seasons of minor-pro hockey with the Victoria Salmon Kings in the ECHL, it was an article of faith among some local fans that Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre would be packed every night if only the major-junior WHL would return and Islanders could once again watch a brand of hockey with which they were more familiar,” writes Cleve Dheensaw in Friday’s Victoria Times Colonist.
“Well, on Tuesday, a combined five players on the Victoria Royals and Portland Winterhawks who are prospects for Canada, Sweden, Denmark and the U.S. at the 2015 world junior championship, were on the ice for an appealing WHL game at the Memorial Centre, but only an announced gathering of 3,779 was at the 7,006-seat arena. That has been a common weekday thread this season on Blanshard Street, with empty blue and burgundy seats far outnumbering the ones with butts filling them.”
Dheensaw’s complete story is right here.
Going into Friday’s games only two WHL teams were showing increased ticket sales when comparing average attendance at this point in the season to last season’s final numbers.
Granted, it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges, but it must mean something when 19 teams are showing a decrease.
The Brandon Wheat Kings, who are off to a terrific start, are averaging 3,838 fans through 13 home games; they finished last season at 3,529.
The Prince George Cougars, in their first season under new ownership, are at 2,709 through 17 games, up from last season’s final number of 1,693.
The Medicine Hat Tigers, in their final season in the Arena, have sold out (4,006) each of their 16 games, as they have done for the past number of seasons. The Tigers are scheduled to move into the 6,500-seat Regional Event Centre in September.
Prior to last night’s games, the WHL had played 39.2 per cent of its season; it was averaging 4,104 fans through 311 games. Last season, it finished with an average of 4,488.
Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province wrote in late November that Giants owner Ron Toigo had admitted to losing $400,000 in each of the previous two seasons. That being the case, one can only imagine what that number might be when this season is one. In 2012-13, the Giants’ average attendance was 7,205, a number that slid to 6,266 last season and this season is at 4,879.
Keep in mind, too, that WHL attendance figures indicate the number of tickets sold, not the number of people in attendance. In many instances, there are more empty seats in buildings than the announced attendance figures would seem to indicate. That, of course, means fewer people are purchasing team merchandise or spending money at the concession stands.
All of this can’t be good news for WHL teams, what with expenses seemingly not falling while new revenue streams are becoming harder to find.
What has happened recently can perhaps be referred to as The Netflix Factor.
In the past, I have alluded to a conversation I had with then-WHL president Ed Chynoweth a long time ago, and I will mention it again. The chat followed the introduction of VCRs as consumer products. It was than that Chynoweth said WHL teams no longer could open the doors to their arenas and expect the fans to show up.
Of course, in those days, a consumer’s major decision was VHS or Beta. Who knew then what minor league teams who depend so much on ticket sales for survival would be faced with in terms of competition?
“In junior and minor pro, everyone is facing a marketplace that has a ton of entertainment choices,” Victoria general manager Cam Hope told Dheensaw. “Our job is convincing people not to sit in front of their TVs, where they have hundreds of choices a week.
“It’s a struggle for everyone involved in our level of the sports business, which is so ticket-revenue driven. We don’t have the TV and sponsorship packages that provide revenue streams for the major-league teams.”
The struggle to get people away from their TVs isn’t going to end any time soon.
Here is a team-by-team look at WHL attendance, showing the number of home games each team had played this season (going into Friday night) and the average attendance, with last season’s ranking and final average attendance in parentheses:
1. Calgary 15 / 6,944 (1. 8,252)
2. Portland 14 / 6,076 (2. 7,329)
3. Edmonton 13 / 5,443 (3. 6,743)
4. Spokane 14 / 5,255 (5. 6,102)
5. Kelowna 13 / 5,121 (6. 5,141)
6. Vancouver 14 / 4,879 (4. 6,266)
7. Red Deer 14 / 4,707 (7. 4,949)
8. Everett 15 / 4,557 (8. 4,901)
9. Victoria 14 / 4,490 (9. 4,800)
10. Saskatoon 14 / 4,231 (10. 4,719)
11. Seattle 13 / 4,062 (11. 4,427)
12. Medicine Hat 16 / 4,006 (14. 4,006)
13. Regina 15 / 3,881 (15. 3,956)
14. Brandon 13 / 3,838 (17. 3,529)
15. Kamloops 14 / 3,801 (13. 4,148)
16. Tri-City 14 / 3,745 (12. 4,223)
17. Moose Jaw 14 / 3,158 (16. 3,613)
18. Lethbridge 13 / 2,862 (18. 3,089)
19. Prince George 17 / 2,709 (22. 1,693)
20. Prince Albert 16 / 2,392 (19. 2,496)
21. Kootenay 13 / 2,179 (20. 2,227)
22. Swift Current 13 / 2,072 (21. 2,119)

F Mikuláš Rimmel (Spokane, 2012-13) has been recalled by Vítkovice Ostrava U20 (Czech Republic, U20 Extraliga) from loan to Havířov and loaned to Šumperk (both Czech Republic, 1. Liga) for the rest of this season. With Vítkovice U20, he had two goals and seven assists in 20 games; with Havířov, he had a goal and four assists in 13 games. . . .
F Malte Strömwall (Tri-City, 2011-13) has signed a contract with Luleå (Sweden, SHL) through the 2015-2016 season. Strömwall was released by Växjö (Sweden, SHL) on Nov. 26. This season, with Växjö, he had two goals in 21 games.

And now for something completely different . . .
If you are at all into wine, you may be interested in the fact that the Spokane Chiefs and Arbor Crest Wine Cellars have, for a second time, come up with Spokane Chiefs Wine -- aka Top Shelf Red.
According to a news release, “Top Shelf Red is a red blend (36% Syrah, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Sangiovese, 9% Merlot) produced and bottled by Arbor Crest Wine Cellars in Spokane. A portion from each bottle sold will go directly to Chiefs Care, a part of the Chiefs organization dedicated to giving back to the community of Spokane and for the continuing education of the Chiefs players.”
For more info, visit the Chiefs’ website right here.
The Spokane Chiefs are likely to have D Jake Toporowski in their lineup tonight when they meet the visiting Kootenay Ice. Toporowski, 16, was a third-round selection in the 2013 bantam draft. A native of Bettendorf, Iowa, he is the son of former Chiefs D Kerry Toporowski, who is something of a WHL legend thanks to 889 penalty minutes and 31 points in 130 games over two seasons (1989-91). . . . Jake now is playing for the junior B Spokane Braves of the Kootenay International Junior League.
--- The Victoria Royals have signed G Dylan Myskiw, who was a sixth-round pick in the 2014 WHL bantam draft. Myskiw, from Winnipeg, plays for the midget AAA Winnipeg Thrashers, where he has seven victories, one shutout, a 2.20 GAA and a .918 save percentage in 18 games.
The Prince Albert Raiders have acquired D Raymond Grewal, 19, from the Prince George Cougars for a 12th-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft. Grewal, from Prince George, had 19 points, including one goal, in 129 regular-season games with the Cougars. He has been with the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings since being released by the Cougars earlier in the season. . . . Grewal didn’t play for the Raiders last night in Kamloops.
F Tyler Jeanson of the MJHL's Portage Terriers has committed to Colgate University, which is located in Hamilton, N.Y., where he will play for the Raiders. . . . Jeanson, a 17-year-old from Graysville, Man., was selected by the Kamloops Blazers in the ninth round of the 2012 WHL bantam draft.


WHL team logoIn Swift Current, F Coda Gordon had two goals and an assist to lead the Broncos to a 5-2 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . He's got 16 goals. . . . Broncos F Glenn Gawdin had three assists. . . . The Broncos held a 19-3 edge in shots in the first period as they built up a 2-0 lead. . . . Lethbridge G Stuart Skinner stopped 28 of 32 shots before leaving after two periods. . . . Zac Robidoux came on to turn aside 11 of 12. . . . The Broncos (15-12-4) had lost their previous three games. . . . The Hurricanes (6-18-4) have one victory in their last 13 games. They have lost three in a row. . . . The Broncos entertain Brandon tonight, while Lethbridge is at home to Red Deer. . . .

In Brandon, F Adam Brooks broke a 2-2 tie at 8:56 of the third period as the Regina Pats got past the Wheat Kings, 3-2. . . . The Pats had lost seven straight games in Brandon. . . . Brooks scored twice, giving him 12 goals. . . . His first goal, at 1:18 of the second period, gave the Pats a 2-0 lead. . . . The Wheat Kings tied it on third-period scores by F Nolan Patrick, his ninth, and D Reid Duke, also his ninth. . . . Regina D Kyle Burroughs was plus-3. He leads the WHL at plus-31. . . . Regina G Daniel Wapple stopped 32 shots in winning his eighth straight decision. . . . Brandon G Jordan Papirny made his ninth consecutive start. He has appeared in 26 of the team’s 30 games this season. . . . Papirny turned aside 35 shots, including a second-period penalty shot attempt by F Austin Wagner, who had two assists. . . . On Wednesday, the Pats beat the visiting Wheat Kings, 4-2. . . . The sweep moved them to within seven points of the East Division-leading Wheat Kings. . . . Regina (18-10-1) has won five in a row and 10 of 11. . . . Brandon (21-7-2) has lost two straight. . . . The Pats are off tonight, while Brandon travels to Swift Current. . . .

In Calgary, F Connor Rankin scored three times for a second straight game as the Hitmen dumped the Edmonton Oil Kings, 6-2. . . . Rankin now has 14 goals. He's got 13 points, including eight goals, in his last four games. . . . The Hitmen led this one 5-0 early in the second period. . . . Calgary D Keegan Kanzig, F Jake Virtanen and F Pavel Karnaukhov each had two assists. . . . Edmonton D Ashton Sautner picked up one assist to run his point streak to 11 games. . . . Calgary F Adam Tambellini scored his 16th goal on a penalty shot at 16:51 of the second period, giving Calgary a 4-0 lead. . . . Edmonton G Tristan Jarry was lifted after allowing four goals on 11 shots through two periods. . . . The Hitmen (16-11-3) have won two in a row and now are second in the Central Division, two points ahead of the Oil Kings. . . . Edmonton (14-11-5) had points in its previous three games (2-0-1). . . . The Oil Kings head home for a date tonight with Moose Jaw, while Calgary takes the night off. . . .

In Red Deer, F Conner Bleackley scored twice to give the Rebels a 2-1 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . F Jack Rodewald provided the visitors with a 1-0 lead with his 14th goal at 13:22 of the first period. . . . Bleackley equalized at 13:58 of the first and it was the Toque Toss goal. . . . Bleackley got the winner, his 10th goal this season, on a PP, at 2:30 of the second. . . . Red Deer G Rylan Toth stopped 16 shots, 11 fewer than Moose Jaw's Justin Paulic. . . . The Rebels (15-11-4) travel to Lethbridge tonight. . . . For the Warriors (12-13-3), this was the first of three games in less than 48 hours in Alberta, with each of them a Teddy Bear game. They are in Edmonton tonight. . . . Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald has more on last night's game right here. . . .

In Cranbrook, F Sam Reinhart broke a 1-1 tie at 5:39 of the third period as the Kootenay Ice beat the Spokane Chiefs, 2-1. . . . Reinhart, who has seven goals, scored the winner on the PP. He has seven goals and now is riding a 12-game point streak. Reinhart has 24 points, including 17 assists, during that streak. . . . Ice F Jaedon Descheneau extended his point streak to 11 games when he scored the Teddy Bear goal just 41 seconds into the game. . . . He's got 19 points, including eight goals, in that stretch. . . . Descheneau also scored the Teddy Bear goal two years ago. . . . Chiefs D Jason Fram got his fourth goal, on a PP, at 19:11 of the second. . . . Ice G Wyatt Hoflin stopped 31 shots, 12 more than Spokane's Garret Hughson. . . . The Ice (14-15-0) will meet the Chiefs (14-10-3) tonight in Spokane. . . . The Ice has won three in a row; the Chiefs have dropped three straight. . . .

In Kamloops, F Jayden Hart broke a 4-4 tie with 25.9 seconds left in the third period to give the Prince Albert Raiders a 5-4 victory over the Blazers. . . . Hart's goal, his 15th, came via the PP as Kamloops D Ryan Rehill had gone off for cross-checking at 18:11. . . . The Raiders, who have won seven straight road games, scored the game's first two goals, outshooting their hosts 13-1 to that point, but were forced to come back from a 4-3 deficit. . . . WHL Facts (@WHLFacts) tweeted that this is the Raiders' longest road winning streak in at least 18 years. . . . Kamloops F Matt Revel tied the game with his second goal, and 11th of the season, at 4:43 of the third. . . . Kamloops F Cole Ully made it 4-3 on the PP at 8:06. He's got 13 goals. . . . The Raiders got even at 11:53 when F Simon Stransky got his fourth goal. . . . In its last four home games Kamloops has fallen behind 6-0, 3-0, 3-0 and 2-0. It is 1-3 in those games. . . . Kamloops has been outscored 43-23 in first periods this season. They are 1-11-2 when they trail after the first. . . . The head coaches in this one have 970 WHL victories between them. Don Hay of the Blazers is at 621, while this was victory No. 349 for Prince Albert's Marc Habscheid. He's 8-5-0 with the Raiders. . . . The Raiders (15-14-0) are to play in Kelowna tonight, while the Blazers (12-14-5) play host to Prince George. . . .

In Kelowna, the Prince George Cougars erased a 2-0 deficit with four second-period goals and beat the Rockets, 4-3. . . . Cougars F Chase Witala had two goals and two assists in that second period. He's got 15 goals. . . . Prince George G Ty Edmonds stopped 37 shots and was especially strong in the third period when the Rockets enjoyed some 5-on-3 time. . . . F David Soltes had three assists for Prince George. . . . Cougars F Colby McAuley left at 1:35 of the third period with a charging major and game misconduct for a hit on Kelowna F Kris Schmidli. . . . Kelowna F Rourke Chartier scored his WHL-leading 32nd goal at 18:45 of the third period, via the PP. The Rockets finished the game on the PP as Cougars D Tate Olson was penalized for delay of game at 19:26. During that PP, Edmonds made a game-saving stop on Chartier. . . . The Rockets were 1-for-8 on the PP; the Cougars were 1-for-3. . . . Garry Davidson, the general manager of the Everett Silvertips, was spotted in attendance at this one. . . . The Cougars (14-15-0) had lost their previous two games. They are in Kamloops tonight. . . . The Rockets (23-4-3) are at home to Prince Albert tonight. . . .

In Victoria, F Axel Blomqvist scored three times to help the Royals to a 6-3 victory over the Saskatoon Blades. . . . Blomqvist tied the game 1-1 at 3:53 of the second period and 3-3 on a PP 30 seconds into the third period. . . . He got Victoria's fifth goal at 16:29 of the third for his 13th goal this season. . . . Victoria D Chaz Reddekopp broke the 3-3 tie with his first goal, on a PP, at 3:56 of the third. . . . Victoria F Greg Chase helped out with his sixth goal and two assists. . . . F Dante Hannoun and F Austin Carroll also had two assists for the Royals. . . . Saskatoon D Ryan Coghlan scored his second goal of the season at 2:31 of the first period. He's from Nanaimo and had lots of family and friends in the crowd. . . . F Sam McKechnie who has been fighting the flu bug, had two assists for Saskatoon. . . . The Blades are 0-3 on their B.C. Division swing, despite opening the scoring in each game. . . . Victoria (16-14-2) doesn't play tonight, while Saskatoon is in Vancouver. . . . The Blades (7-21-2) have lost six straight and 14 of 16. . . .

In Vancouver, F Jackson Houck scored twice and added an assist as the Giants opened the Claude Noel era with a 3-2 victory over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . This was Noel’s first game as head coach of the Giants. He was introduced Monday as the replacement for Troy Ward, who was fired after 25 games. . . . One of Noel's first moves was to take the captaincy away from F Dalton Sward. Last night, Sward, D Mason Geertsen and Houck were alternates. . . . Houck has 10 goals this season. . . . The Giants never trailed, leading 2-0 in the first period and 3-1 in the third. . . . F Tyler Benson had three assists for Vancouver, two of them on the PP. . . . The Giants were 2-for-5; the Winterhawks were 0-for-6. . . . F Chase De Leo had two assists for Portland. . . . According to the on-line score sheet, the Giants had 20 skaters dressed. Uhh, that would be two over the maximum. . . . The Giants honoured the memory of the late Pat Quinn, who owned a piece of the team, with a banner raising prior to the game. . . . The Giants (11-18-0) have won two in a row and are at home to Saskatoon tonight. . . . The Winter hawks (15-13-3), who meet visiting Everett tonight, had a six-game winning streak snapped. . . .

In Kent, Wash., the host Seattle Thunderbirds scored the game’s first three goals en route to a 3-1 victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . F Ryan Gropp scored his 13th goal and added an assist as the Thunderbirds won their second straight game. . . . Seattle limited Tri-City to 18 shots -- six, five and seven, by period. . . . Thunderbirds G Taran Kozun lost his shutout when F Jordan Topping scored his first goal at 14:49 of the second period. . . . The Thunderbirds (12-12-4) are at home to Medicine Hat tonight. . . . The Americans (15-13-0) have lost two in a row. They won’t play tonight. . . .

In Everett, F Trevor Cox scored three times and set up another to lead the Medicine Hat Tigers to a 5-2 victory over the Silvertips. . . . Cox, who has eight goals, scored the game’s last two goals after Everett had gotten to within one, at 3-2. . . . F Remi Laurencelle scored twice for Everett, giving him six goals. Both came on second-period PPs. . . . D Tommy Vannelli and D Tyler Lewington each had two assists for the visitors. . . . Medicine Hat F Cole Sanford scored the game’s first goal, his 18th. It was shorthanded. . . . Medicine Hat G Marek Langhamer stopped 29 shots, 18 more than Everett’s Austin Lotz. . . . Down 4-2, Everett head coach Kevin Constantine pulled Lotz for the extra attacker with 5:33 to play. Cox scored an empty-netter with 33.7 seconds left to play. . . . F Jake Mykitiuk was pointless in his debut with the Silvertips. He apparently didn't get to Everett in time for the game day skate, so the pregame warmup was his first time on the ice with his new teammates. . . . The Tigers (20-6-2), who have won four straight, will meet Seattle in Kent, Wash., tonight. . . . Everett (17-6-4) is in Portland tonight.


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