The attendance is down at the Bell Centre and some want you to believe that it’s because fans are unhappy with management. It could be a contributing factor but then again… it might not. If that’s the case in Montreal, then it must be the case across the NHL as attendance is down almost everywhere.
Across the NHL, the attendance is down almost 12%. Out of 30 NHL teams where data is available, 27 arenas have a lower attendance than in 2019-20 (no fans most of last season, remember?).
Only three teams in the entire NHL are up in attendance this season, the most by 170 fans. 10 teams draw fewer than 15,000 fans to their home games. That’s five more teams than in 2019-20 and that’s counting the New York Islanders that year and we don’t know this season.
So if you see someone pointing the finger at the Canadiens for sitting room during games, ask yourself this: Is this because they’re dissatisfied with the team or does it have to do with COVID limitations across the league? I know the answer and from looking at the table above, you do too.
League covering up for sexual abuse
The NHL is not helping itself with its handling of the Kyle Beach sexual abuse case. League Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly met with the press a couple of days ago and they completely lacked empathy towards not only Beach (the victim), but defended some of the actions taken by some members of the Chicago Blackhawks. Many owners are apparently quite upset over Bettman’s handling of this whole situation and they want answers. Most allegedly feel like the league was soft in their fine of $2 million to the Blackhawks organisation for something this serious.
Further, the NHL tried to avoid letting the reporter who broke the story, Rick Westhead, from asking Bettman questions. It’s not before Pierre LeBrun of TSN, RDS and The Athletic, raised the issue that the NHL finally allowed the reporter to ask a question. Yet, he’s the most knowledgeable of them all about this situation.
The league came out of this press conference like they didn’t take the issue seriously enough and that Bettman and Daly were trying to cover up and ditch tough questions. For many fans and media members, it shows a lack of willingness to take this seriously and question their true desire to change, that it was simply lip service by the NHL.
It’s the second time in a few months that the NHL is under the spotlight for the wrong reasons in regards to sexual offenses. Back in July, the Canadiens selected Logan Mailloux who has previously asked for teams not to select him due to his conviction in Sweden. Had the NHL stepped up and declaired Mailloux ineligible for the Draft, no one would have selected him.
Let’s just say that this last story coming out of Chicago, combined with the botched press conference by the league’s top-two men didn’t do anything to gain confidence in the leadership of the NHL. And that certainly won’t help with selling the product to both sponsors and fans, with an already diminishing attendance league-wide…