COLUMBUS, Ohio – Attendance at Thursday’s NHL game in Ottawa came close to pity. In my 25 years of covering hockey, including the last 10 of regularly traveling to NHL cities, the crowd of 11,465 who watched the Avalanche defeat the proud Senators 4-1 was the support for weakest home I have ever seen.
It was Canada, where hockey reigns. The national hobby is always a good time. But it looked like Sunrise, Florida, or Glendale, Arizona, where 12,000 isn’t abnormal in sunny states in NHL arenas down the road from the nearest big city.
The Senators average 12,132 fans at the lowest in the league at the Canadian Tire Center in Kanata, Ont. – some 17 miles east of downtown Ottawa – and capacity is also the worst in the league. at 63.3%, according to ESPN. The Florida Panthers come next with 79.4% capacity, followed by the Arizona Coyotes at 84.4%.
Senators fans say the low turnout is their own fault, stemming from the controversial backlash from team owner, governor and chairman Eugene Melnyk. Melnyk, who bought the franchise for $ 92 million in 2003, has seen his average attendance drop steadily from 19,356 in 2011-12 due to the owner’s unpopular decisions. Still, Forbes magazine had the Senators team worth $ 355 million in 2016. So Melnyk holds the cards.
Bottom line: Complaining about the ownership of an NHL team anywhere outside of Ottawa is petty compared to what’s going on with the Senators.
Back home. Los Angeles-area native Trevor Moore was traded to his hometown Kings last week, just in time to make a second comeback south of the Denver area. Moore, a three-year-old University of Denver star, was traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Kings, with two third-round draft picks, in exchange for Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell.
Moore, 24, is scheduled to appear in Saturday’s NHL Stadium Series game against the Avalanche at Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium.
Moore was a key player at DU before signing an entry-level maximum free agent contract with the Leafs on July 26, 2016. The Pioneers, who lost a close game to North Dakota in the Frozen semifinals 2016 NCAA Four in Tampa, Florida, won the 2017 NCAA Championship in Chicago in what could have been Moore’s senior season.
Moore was scheduled to make his Kings debut on Saturday in New Jersey.
Glue the taps. College Hockey Inc. was pounding its chest on Twitter Thursday when people like me pointed out that the NHL’s top rookie scorers are both defensemen who have taken the NCAA path.
The Avs’ Cale Makar had two points, including a power play goal, against the Senators to edge Quinn Hughes to a high of 40 points, before the Vancouver youngster picked up an assist in a 4-2 loss to Minnesota.
Makar, 21, played two years at the University of Massachusetts. Hughes, 20, played for two years in Michigan. Each of the highly qualified players were the second defenseman selected in the draft, Makar in 2017, Hughes the following year.
The two big things that separate Makar and Hughes from the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year are: Makar has played 10 games less than Hughes and has a plus-8 rating versus minus-4. for Hughes.