There are teams whose marketing momentum wasn’t hurt all that much by the NHL lockout (see: Sabres, Buffalo).
And then there are the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This is a team that had to convince fans to continue shelling out for season tickets in a post-Rick Nash era. This is a team that had to gets fans excited for a roster that doesn’t have a true star, rookie or otherwise, to market around. This is a team that had to get fans pumped after having the NHL’s worst record last season.
This is a team that saw its major promotional tent pole – the 2013 NHL All-Star Game – sacrificed to the lockout. Then, after the lockout ended, this is a team that found itself without rare visits from popular foes like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers because of the intra-conference schedule.
Add all that together, and what do you get? The lowest season ticket base total in Blue Jackets franchise history, according to Jeff Bell of Columbus Business First:
CBJ President Mike Priest told me the team’s season-ticket sales stand at a little over 7,000 as the club prepares to open the shortened NHL season at Nashville on Saturday.
That compares with 8,000 last season. Those numbers are for “full-season equivalents,” which factor in tickets bought in full-season packages as well as partial-season plans. By my calculations, the 7,000 mark is the lowest in the history of the Blue Jackets, who made their NHL debut in 2000.
How bad are things in Columbus for this season?
They’re selling buy one, get one free tickets for a visit by the Detroit Red Wings on opening night. And a free shirt. And a free hot dog. And a free soda. And free popcorn.
No word if the Blue Jackets will allow every fan with a ticket stub to coach the team for a shift from the bench as well …