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Bulldog's Future In Hamilton?


JHaul

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http://www.thespec.com/News/Local/article/701852

There is a scent of euthanasia lurking at the Hamilton hockey pound.

The Hamilton Bulldogs' attendance is sagging badly at Copps Coliseum this season and it hit rock bottom Wednesday night when only 1,952 showed up. That was the second lowest crowd in the Dogs' 14-year history at Copps.

The Bulldogs have iced a competitive and high-scoring squad that sits in the top spot in their division.

But the team is averaging just 3,626 at Copps this season, their lowest attendance ever. That average is about 1,000 less than last season. That leaves the Bulldogs 21st in attendance out of the 29 American Hockey League franchises.

So alarm bells are ringing, admits Duncan Gillespie, CEO of Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc., which runs Copps.

"It's a huge concern," he said. "When you look at some of the options we have taken to turn this around, it demonstrates how seriously we take this."

He added all the stakeholders must address the issue.

"This is a trend that can be stopped," he said. "It can be fixed but we have somehow lost some focus and we have lost a connection to the community.

"I don't think we're in a crisis mode at this point but I don't think you wait until you're in a crisis mode until you make these kinds of decisions and I think we have to make them fairly soon."

As troubling as the crowd drop-off is the fact that HECFI, which took over the Bulldogs' ticket sales, sponsorship, advertising sales and game-day operations under a two-year deal with the club, will lose $250,000 on the club for 2009.

And this week HECFI exercised a termination clause with J-Core Marketing, which had been responsible for promotion, advertising and ticket sales for the hockey team.

Gillespie said a "shakeup" was required.

Company president Jason Daleo confirmed the move yesterday and admits HECFI may find it difficult to sell Dogs ducats for the rest of the season.

"It's a struggle with season tickets. I don't think the 'are we coming or going or is the NHL coming or going' has helped our case corporately," he said. The Bulldogs have about 1,500 season ticket subscribers. Daleo said HECFI didn't help the club by reserving Friday dates for concerts giving the club fewer prime weekend dates.

The schedule also gave the club stretches where too many home games have been jammed into short periods. The Dogs are in the midst of one such stretch right now, with eight home games in 15 days.

Bulldog owner Michael Andlauer is currently in talks on a possible three-year lease extension for Copps. But Andlauer, who attended the Wednesday night dog debacle, makes it clear he is unhappy with the job HECFI is doing when it comes to operating the business operations.

"Obviously they haven't put the focus in the right direction," he said.

And it is no secret that St. John's would roll out the red carpet for the franchise if the Bulldog boss doesn't get the deal he wants here.

"I have options to leaving Hamilton right through to extension or taking it (the business operation) right back in house," he said, adding he would like to stay. The parent Montreal Canadiens also likes the team in Hamilton, a location that gives it ready access to players on short notice and makes it a handy stop for scouts.

Andlauer said the Bulldog current average attendance is a concern.

"Absolutely. There is no way you can make money at 3,700 the way it stands. We don't want to be able to hear the players cussing at the referee."

Gillespie admits HECFI has made mistakes. "But I'm trying to demonstrate to Michael that this organization is committed to the Bulldogs staying in Hamilton and the Bulldogs being successful.

"No, we haven't done everything perfectly. We've made lots of difficult decisions to move the product ahead."

Andlauer said the low crowd was disappointing but not surprising given HECFI's lack of focus on the team.

Hamilton Councillor Bob Bratina, a HECFI board member, believes a community poll should be conducted to determine whether Hamiltonians want this franchise.

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I personally think the ticket prices are too high at $26. I went to a Senators game for cheaper than that. If they were say $15, I would go to at least 2-3 games a month and I live about half an hour away. That is the only thing keeping me back and probably a lot of people from attending the games.

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I have been a season ticket holder for about 6-8 yrs... I like to give most of tickets away to the kids and for raffle draws and the sort. But I do to bring my family to about 10 games per yr. I am VERY disapointed in the way this has rolled out. I think that we have some NHL hangover now but it will pass. (i hope) We have a good product and good entertainment. I seriously think that some of the counsilours do not want it here anymore.

I have been racking my brain since Christmas on trying to figure out how to get more people there. Now I know with all the work issues in town from the heavy industry layoffs and stuff is a major factor but there has got to be antother way to get the word on the street and get people back there. I would really like to have a convo with someone in the Dogs' offices NOT HECFI about what we can do for them to help us help them. We have Mac U. and Mohawk Coll. here with a good student base. Even with the high schools in the area, get a promo for the students and familes to go to the games. I was there on Monday night and there was about 6-8 university guys a few rows back from me. They were quite entertainning. They covered all aspects from school to hockey to how bad the refs eyesight was.

The write-ups in the paper have been not good, but they are only reporting the facts. I think it's time for the Dog's office to take control and get out there in the face of the people and get them in the building. What would it take for a local station radio or t.v. to have a player or 2 during the week for a promo. All the stations and the local paper should help out as well. not just the game report but whatever they can to help.

bring the game and the players to the public. Some of the players are dying to get their name out there. Whenever there has been a meet and greet of some sort they are all smiles and welcoming. They take the time to talk to us. A little networking goes a long way.

Help out the dog's people I don't want to loose them

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we'll take them in St. John's. Our average attendance for Fog Devil games was nearly 4000, but due to mismanagement by the city council we lost the team. But unless Hamilton gets an NHL team, I see no reason to move the Bulldogs. $26 for an AHL games seems steep. We paid $15 for Fog Devil games here in the QMJHL. Bet if the price dropped to that you'd see attendance sky rocket.

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we'll take them in St. John's. Our average attendance for Fog Devil games was nearly 4000, but due to mismanagement by the city council we lost the team. But unless Hamilton gets an NHL team, I see no reason to move the Bulldogs. $26 for an AHL games seems steep. We paid $15 for Fog Devil games here in the QMJHL. Bet if the price dropped to that you'd see attendance sky rocket.

that is kinda my idea. Student disc or SOMETHING! some income is better then NONE!

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I think the whole NHL Ballsille thing may actually have hurt the Bulldogs. When a city feels they are justified to have whatever level of hockey, hockey teams can have a hard time selling them a lower level.

But $26 tickets do seem excessive for AHL hockey and could have something to do with it.

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Honestly , this is not a new issue, the year they won the Cup i was buying tickets to the game lower bowl a couple days before and had great seats, the arena was more then HALF empty even in the final round, hell, they only opened the upper bowl the last game when they won it, Hamilton is not a good place for an AHL team, they dont support the team even when they are winning, and me living less then an hour away will miss them but they need to go somewhere that the team will be supported by the city, and its not Hamilton.

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its kinda depressing. I get to approx 7 to 10 games a season with my 3 kids. The attendence is brutal and I am ashamed of my city for not supporting the Bulldogs. They should lower prices because wth 3 kids it gets pretty steep (like everything else). BTW my youngest daughter and her choir will be singing the national anthems on Feb 3rd against the san Antonio Rampage!!!

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I personally think the ticket prices are too high at $26. I went to a Senators game for cheaper than that. If they were say $15, I would go to at least 2-3 games a month and I live about half an hour away. That is the only thing keeping me back and probably a lot of people from attending the games.

Good point, though with all due respect, the Bulldogs are much more entertaining then the Sens.

Jokes aside, it is really disappointing. As others have noted, the team is so great to watch. Perhaps a more aggressive ticket pricing strategy is required.

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It would probably help if the city would actually market the team(which is what they're supposed to do according to their contract).

This is the biggest problem at the moment, The Bulldogs are merely another HECFI (Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc) event - like the concerts, monster truck shows, Disney on ice etc etc - it gets no real special marketing beyond that. The actual Bulldogs staff has little influence or control of promotion, ticketing and marketing. That may change soon.

The NHL in Hamilton certainly killed much momentum brought on by the Calder Cup - the very day of the victory rally - the media was full of the bring the NHL to Hamilton. The Bulldogs were completely left out of any of Balsilie's and the city's plans and pretty much had to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. The mayor did not recognize that the Bulldogs were considered professional hockey.

Beyond that, many complain about the prices, certainly there should be better options and breaks for families but generally if one looks around (hopefully not to scalpers - oh yes they do exist) - there are many discounted tickets - season ticket holders can buy tickets for others at their rate, there are many groups selling discounted tickets etc. There are flex packs for five and ten games at lower prices. I'm not sure lowering the prices would increase attendance that much! Even you do fill the building - in the end how does that hep the team if half your tickets are comps or giveaways? Is that fair to the STHs who are your main attendees and pay their shot up front?

I guess I'm spoiled but even at $26 an adult ticket I think it is pretty reasonable - it really is just a step short of the NHL - to compare it with the O or the Q is not reasonable - it is a totally different level of hockey. In the O or Q you will see one or two future NHLers and the occasional future star (especially if you are in Windsor! :lol: ) in the AHL well over 50% are future NHLers or former NHLers and sometimes even current NHLers - I believe the percentage quoted by the league is that over 80% of current NHLers spent some time in the AHL. The Bulldogs graduation rate has been quite high lately - especially since the 02-03 season when the Canadiens came to town!

If you can - come on out and see for yourself!

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I used to go to the games all the time when they were in Fredericton. The company I worked for bought season tickets. He would give them out to different people that came into the shop. Any time no one took the tickets I'd grab them. I wish they were still here. Unfortunately the facility wasn't large enough and they had to leave town. It was excellent hockey and if they end up leaving Hamilton, people won't know what they had until it's gone. Support your DOGS!

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If Hamilton can get 7,000 fans to a game like last nights, then what r they doing right those days to get that many people??

and i would like to suggest some things they need to change to make this a better fan experience.

-fix the scoreboard replay!!!! most annoying thing is when a beautiful goal is scored or a goal is debateable and you don't have a decent look at another showing of it.

-Get some better intermission entertainment. the figure skating was good, the attempts at scoring a goal from centre ice is good and the timbit kids are good but i've seen some horrible stuff, like a drilling competition on the back of a truck that noone could see!!!

-More kids need to be there!!! Kids are great for noise factor and simple entertainment. i know it's hard during the week cuz of school and all but maybe a 7 pm start on weekday games would be better.

- lower the price of beer!!!! and maybe some other overprice concessions

- lower ticket prices a tad bit. maybe a cheaper price for weekday games.

- more advertising to get butts in the seats. if ppl have to go looking for info on the dogs they're not going to do it. i didn't even know about recession wednesday ($1 for a hot dog every wednesday!!!)

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Moose tickets range from about 45$ to about 22$ I believe.

Then $26 is not really unreasonable for adult - when you can sit just about anywhere in the rink you like, if you buy early enough.

And again there are many more deals available with a minimum of hunting around.

I do think a reduced price for weekday games might help a little anyway, along with an earlier start! - good suggestion!

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Then $26 is not really unreasonable for adult - when you can sit just about anywhere in the rink you like, if you buy early enough.

And again there are many more deals available with a minimum of hunting around.

I do think a reduced price for weekday games might help a little anyway, along with an earlier start! - good suggestion!

Just don't sit in my season ticket seat like some guy did earlier this week. I will have the usher and / or security remove you. :P

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When't and watched Montreal at Vancouver last year and tickets cost $285.00 american + taxes so not to cheap. I think that $26.00 is too much should be more around $22.00.

Just my thought!

I think we can all agree that the NHL is the top hockey league in the world. The AHL is the next best thing.....For those of you who have never seen the AHL, don't knock it before you see it. These kids trying to make the NHL are playing their hearts out and it is some of the best hockey you will ever see. For that $26 (actually less for me because I have season tickets) I sit in the 2nd row up from the ice.

Where did that $285 U.S. seat you?

For $640 Canadian, I get 40 games at ice level seats. Swansee can back me up on this. He has the same.

It makes me angry when people say that $26 is too expensive for the 2nd best hockey games available. Go to Toronto....you will pay $300 for a single game.

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