Empty seats hard not to notice
When the Detroit Red Wings take the ice like they did for for three games this week, the swatches of empty seats in the Joe Louis Arena stands leave an impression on the players. All four home games this season have had 3-4,000 empty seats.
"I noticed it standing on the blue line (for the national anthem)," said Detroit's Dan Cleary. "Not much you can do. Try to give them a good, honest effort and try to win games. Hopefully, we'll get some more people out. We have great fans. Every year I've been here, they've been enthusiastic. … It's early. Things can change."
What has changed is the attendance of Red Wing games. By the end of the last regular season, Detroit had built a 452-game streak of sellouts. The most recent non-sellout was Dec. 10, 1996.
Then all nine of last year's home playoff games fell short of being sellouts. After last night, you can add three regular-season non-sellouts to make the Red Wings' current non-sellout streak 12 games.
Because of the playoffs last season, the players suspected that this season would open with more vacant seats as well.
"It's something we were aware of," said Dominik Hasek. "We were talking about it during training camp, so we expected that maybe some games wouldn't be sold out. All I can say is it's very disappointing. You like to play in front of 20-plus thousand people. It's a better feeling. Unfortunately, this is the way it is. Like I said, we have to do the best we can do on the ice and hope we can see at least on the weekends 20,000 people.
"When you see the season-opener not being sold out, it's a bad sign. Now that the baseball season is over, we can hope that some people can find a way to Joe Louis Arena. We can't expect on weeknights for the arena to be sold out, but I hope maybe on weekends."
The home-opener this season was against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Anaheim Ducks … the same team that eliminated Detroit from the playoffs a year ago. If that game didn't sell out, mid-week contests against Calgary aren't likely to pack the Joe.
"The way I look at things, it doesn't matter what the conditions are around you, you make the best of things," said coach Mike Babcock. "Our job here as a team is to play hard, to win enough games so that the people want to come and support us. It doesn't matter whether you're in Canada or Southern California, the more games that you win, the more that people want to come. You've got to create a buzz by winning."