Bring back the Shore
CeeBees executive says loss of Breakers hurting ticket sales at home games
Compared with other teams competing in the Avalon East Senior Hockey League, the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars are doing well when it comes to attracting spectators for home games at S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace — just not as well as last season.
According to team executive Kenny Hunt, attendance numbers have been down this season, with an average of 600 hockey fans showing up for each game. Last season, the team drew an average of approximately 700 spectators per game, according to former stadium manager Lorne Tucker, who now looks after Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay.
Hunt says the downturn can be attributed to the loss of the Southern Shore Breakers this season. The two teams had an intense rivalry in recent years, culminating in consecutive seven-game playoff series to determine the league champions for 2009 and 2010.
“ They were our No. 1 rival for the last number of years,” says Hunt. “Mount Pearl and Torbay give us some great opponents, but it’s not the same rivalry.”
The loss of the Breakers this season has meant more games between the CeeBees and the three remaining teams in the AESHL.
While the Mount Pearl Blades and CeeBee Stars have been neck-and-neck with each other all year, the same cannot be said for the CeeBees and the other two teams. The CeeBee Stars have outscored the Bell Island Blues and Northeast Senior Eagles by margins of 49-14 (six games) and 36-16 (seven games), respectively. Only one of those teams, the Senior Eagles, has defeated the Stars in regular season play.
The apparent decrease in the level of competition may have kept some fans away from
the rink, but there is also an increase in the cost of ticket prices to consider. The price for adults increased from $ 8 to $ 10. Tickets cost $ 6 for children.
“ Ticket prices may have something to do with the downturn in attendance, but it’s primarily the loss of the Breakers,” says Hunt, adding the team’s budgetted revenue for this season factored in a decline in attendance. When asked about the team’s finances, Hunt would only say its budget was made with a run for the Herder in mind.
Overall, fan support for the CeeBees is still the envy of every other team in the league. Michelle Rideout, a financial administrator for the Mount Pearl Glacier, says the Blades have averaged 390 fans per game, with numbers jumping substantially whenever the CeeBee Stars are in town.
“ I won’t say we have home ice advantage,” says Hunt, “ but we have a large fan base that follows us, especially in Mount Pearl.”
The Senior Eagles have averaged 500 fans each game, said Tucker, and Monsignor Bartlett Memorial Arena manager Holly Neary says the Blues have averaged 175 spectators for home games.
“Our players appreciate our fan base, there’s no doubt about that,” says Hunt.
Making up for any loss in revenue from admission fees are sales from 50/50 tickets. Don Regular, one of the 50/50 draw organizers who can also be seen selling tickets at each CeeBees home game, says sales are up by about 20 per cent over this time last year, with the average jackpot size totalling $1,000.
“ We feel this is an integral part of the support for our team, and the fans have been very, very good.”
Helping those sales has been the effort to get 50/ 50 tickets into 12 Conception Bay North retail businesses. This practice got underway little over a year ago.
“Our numbers are improved because we’ve had a full year now of having them in the stores, and that little bit of extra revenue has improved our overall sales,” says Regular.
Along with the 50/50 tickets, the team is trying a new revenue-generating venture through a ticket draw on a trip for four to Detroit to watch Dan Cleary and his Red Wings teammates play the Toronto Maple Leafs in March. The prize includes airfare, three night in a hotel, $500 in spending money, four autographed jerseys, and a chance to meet Cleary, the pride of Riverhead, Harbour Grace. The winner will be drawn from 4,000 printed tickets on Feb. 12.