The resurgence of the Vancouver Canucks on the ice this season, with some help from a full slate of the National Hockey League (NHL) franchise’s 50th-anniversary celebrations, have propelled business prospects to heights the team hasn’t seen in years.
Canucks officials say that, among the team’s 21 home games played at Rogers Arena this year by the season’s halfway point, eight were sellouts. In comparison, the team recorded a single sellout in its first 22 games last season.
The Canucks’ chief operating officer, Trent Carroll, said the team’s own ticket-sales forecast is showing another four or five sellouts for the second half of the season: “The next two home games – Jan. 16 versus Arizona and Jan. 18 versus San Jose – are also looking close already.”
The Canucks have struggled with maintaining fan interest and ticket sales for the latter half of the 2010s, especially after the Stanley Cup run in 2011 gave way to zero playoff appearances in the last four years (and in five of the last six). After the team failed to sell out its first home game in 12 years in 2014, average attendance slipped to 16th in the league in 2017-18, with 18,078 fans per game, or 95.6 per cent capacity at Rogers Arena.
In comparison, this year – the franchise’s 50th in the NHL – has seen the emergence of young star players like Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes propelling the team to a seven-game winning streak over the holiday break. At the season’s halfway point, the Canucks already have 50 points (versus just 73 points for the entire season two years ago) and are in the midst of a close playoff race.
The team’s improvement has translated to a jump in attendance figures to an average of 18,643 a game this year, 98.6 per cent of arena capacity and eighth highest in the NHL. More importantly, Carroll said, the business numbers reflect an even larger rebound in the mood among its fans in the Lower Mainland.
“What we are hearing from fans and guests consistently this season is that it’s fun to be at the games again,” he said. “And that’s the way it should be. It should be a breakaway from your normal day… We want to make sure the fans have an exciting, special experience every time they come to the game, and to see the interaction between the fans and the team, which is reflected in the attendance, makes it really fun for everyone involved. It means that we are doing our jobs.”
Canucks officials say all three major ticket-buying segments – individual sales, group sales and season tickets – are part of the box-office boost. In addition to the strong season ticket renewal rate that officials alluded to at the beginning of the season, the team is now also reporting day-of-game ticket sales have jumped by 75 per cent to 100 per cent this year versus last.
That’s the type of diverse ticket product purchases the team wants to see, Carroll said, because it shows the fan excitement is spreading through a wide segment of the local demographic, something that the Canucks have tried hard to reach during the lean years in the recent past.
Although the Canucks expect the biggest boost from special events in the second half of the season to come from the number-retirement festivities surrounding retired stars Daniel and Henrik Sedin in February, officials are equally excited about the fan response to theme nights not only celebrating the team’s different eras (2000s night on March 6, 2010s night on March 27) but also marking the Lunar New Year (Jan. 18), Next Generation Day for young fans (March 15), and Hockey Is for Everyone (March 25).
In addition, the team is also seeing fans respond to an array of options for seats and services on top of the basic, traditional single seat in the lower or upper bowls of the arena. The new Encore Suite, featuring a luxury lounge experience, VIP arena entry, dedicated concierge and a panoramic 400-level centre ice viewpoint, is sold out for the entire season.
Fans have also responded to offerings such as the Loge Club, which features private dining-booth seating, as well as the seating area below the SportsBar for a different atmosphere.
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