VANCOUVER — Vancouver hockey fans left Rogers Arena Monday night pumping their fists after the Canucks won their third game in a row, this time against the L.A. Kings.
“Go Canucks,” one fan shouted. “Playoffs,” another declared.
Too bad it’s too late for the Stanley Cup playoffs and this euphoria is short-lived.
There’s no question it’s been a disastrous and disappointing season. At one point in the season, the Canucks didn’t score for a week.
That has fans like Conor Kinsella doing some soul-searching.
“It’s not as entertaining as previous seasons,” the 29-year-old told Global News. “I have to give it another thought before I purchase tickets again next season.”
At Showtime Tickets, last-minute tickets in the upper bowl that normally go for around $69 to $99 have been selling for as low as $30, according to manager Adrian Sutherland.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in years,” Sutherland said.
Fewer than half of the Canucks’ home games have been sellouts. The team admits it’s been a tough year and commiserates with fans.
“We haven’t won a Stanley Cup before. We’ve been close three times,” Chief Operating Officer Victor de Bonis said. “We are so desperate to be a championship franchise.”
There’s another game in town that has been giving the Canucks a run for their money — soccer.
Just across the way at B.C. Place, the Vancouver Whitecaps are drawing fans in droves.
An average Whitecaps game attracts 23,000 soccer fans versus 18,000 for the Canucks.
“It’s the only game in town,” said one soccer fan at Saturday’s match against the L.A. Galaxy.
“We now have a team to cheer for,” another fan said.
The Whitecaps are marketing to a demographic between the ages of 18 and 34, and trying to hook them long-term with ticket prices starting at $27.
It appears to be working; ticket sales have increased 10 per cent in the last year.
“That is an indicator of the type of vibrant market we have for our sport,” club president Bob Lenarduzzi said.
Lenarduzzi played with team in the 1970s, long before the Whitecaps became part of Major League Soccer. He also grew up in Vancouver and saw the first game the Canucks ever played in his hometown.
“There’s enough room for multiple franchises,” Lenarduzzi said.
Hockey fans in Vancouver have a tendency to jump back on the bandwagon when their team is winning. “Fans will come back,” Global News sports anchor Squire Barnes said.
But fans like Kinsella are still mulling what to do next season.
“It wasn’t worth the price of a ticket this season,” he said.
“Better Luck Next Year” is a week-long series airing on Global National looking at the impact of Canada’s Stanley Cup playoff drought on the teams, the fans and the seven cities home to NHL teams. Watch Global National at 6:30 p.m. ET/AT and 5:30 p.m. MT/PT.