The Canadian Tire Centre set a record for unfilled seats this past season as the Ottawa Senators, beset by struggles on and off the ice, saw a 20-plus-year low in average attendance.
According to hockeyDB.com, the local NHL club attracted an average of 14,553 fans to home games this past season, its lowest attendance figures since the team moved to its current arena in the 1995-96 season. Attendance has been trending downward each season since 2012-13 when the Sens brought an average of 19,408 fans out to games.
The Sens struggled mightily on the ice this past season, finishing dead last in the league in total points. The past few months have also seen much-loved players traded from the local club, starting with star defenceman Erik Karlsson in the fall, followed by pending free agents Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel.
Many fans have taken their frustrations out on social media, with some declaring boycotts on Sens games and directing their complaints at team owner Eugene Melnyk. The controversial owner has ruffled feathers with his musings about moving the team and public battles with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the media, as well as failing to close a deal on the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats that would’ve seen a new downtown arena for the team.
In response to dwindling support, the Sens recently launched a new loyalty campaign embracing the team’s recent “bumps in the road” and appealing to the club’s most steadfast supporters to stick with it through a rebuild. In recent years, the team has lowered parking fees and experimented with tarping off some seats in the Kanata arena.
Forbes’ 2018 ranking of NHL franchise valuations pegged the Sens’ worth at roughly $435 million, among the league’s 10 lowest-valued teams.