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What a tangled web Mike Chambers has weaved. Who is Mike Chambers, he's the Denver Post writer who occasionally fills in for Dater and Frei and writes about hockey occasionally at the Denver post. On December 16th he was the catalyst for what is quickly becoming the most talked about Denver hockey story. His story in the Denver Post about the Avs attendance issues this season started an avalanche of debate and stories (avalanche get it?!?). This lead to Jez Golbez's blasting of Avs fans, which I "furiously rebutted".

Then Adrian Dater wrote a blog piece on the Avs attendance issues which prompted a response over at Mile High hockey and a level-headed Greg Wyshanski post over at the Fanhouse, which in turn lead to Tapeleg and Wyshanski arguing it out in the comments over at Tapeleg's response over at Jersey's and Hockey Love. Bob in Boulder also added some insight in the comments, especially in regards to the fan cost index.

At least all these posts had some sort of thought, analysis, and reasonable thought put into them. Even Golbez's piece (I kid, I kid). Because an argument isn't complete until someone comes in and turns what is a lively debate full of intellectual, practical and well-thought-out reasoning, into an mindless orgy of shallow, perverse, mind-numbing knee-jerk reactions, Mark Kizsla has chimed in, sort of. Frankly I'm not sure if he's bashing the quality of play in the league or the facelessness of the players, but he seems to be trying to do both. Here's some selected quotes:
This team and this league have lost their identity.

Despite the rise of young star Sidney Crosby and the enduring perfection of Nicklas Lidstrom, the NHL has never been more faceless, and the standings are piled high with mediocrity like so much dirty snow.

Here's betting players from Chicago and Colorado could have traded sweaters before the opening faceoff, and half the fans in the arena would not have noticed the difference for at least one period, maybe two.

Who are these guys?
Also:
The constant roster churn creates a here-today, gone-tomorrow vibe that makes players strangers to their fans and teammates alike.
Finally:
No offense to Tyler Arnason or Jordan Leopold, but they aren't worth the price of admission, no matter what a ticket costs. They could be wearing a Blackhawks sweater tomorrow, and few people in Denver would know or care.
While the point he's making is fairly valid: It's harder to market players to local markets when they change teams all the time. That also reduces the quality of play. This could be a reason for the attendance drop this season. I respect that argument, and I've even made that argument. However I did it without going out of my way to unnecessarily bash Avs players (Leopold and Arnason), the league's Salary cap, or the intelligence of Avalanche fans.

But he did briefly touch on a point (even though he only did so on accident). that the Avs good young stars aren't known locally. I think that's something that has been lost in all the Attendance talk, that while the Avs have plenty of young stars, they aren't well-known around town. Here's what I wrote in response to Wyshanski in Tapeleg's post on this:
But I think there’s more too it than [ticket prices]. When the Avs first won the cup they became THE ticket in town. They were the kings of town, now that those cups have started to fade to memories they aren’t the trendy ticket in town anymore. That doesn’t mean they aren’t popular, they are (4th highest rating for the winter classic, strong local ratings, etc). But some of those trendy, and very rich fans, have faded away from the Avs. TV numbers show there is still considerable interest, but as Tape has shown above, the Avs are still pricing games as if the Avs are still the hardest ticket in town to get.

The Avs, as an organization, have been spoiled. They have never had to market their product since moving. The Avs have always created a fantastic local buzz. The lockout depleted their season ticket base, but the Avs were still selling out so they didn’t market the team or do a good job marketing. They took their popularity for granted, and it’s kind of coming back to bite them now. The buzz is gone now. The Avs are no longer new, or championship quality, so now it’s up to the Avs to do a better job of promoting itself. In the meantime they need more family packs and promotional gigs to get the season ticket base up.
Adrian Dater echoed my sentiments in his mailbag today:
Here's one of my theories as to why the Avs are starting to lag at the gate: Their lack of marketing over the years has started to catch up to them. In the glory years, they didn't need to market themselves so much, because their play on the ice did it all. They had some of the game's biggest stars, so they marketed themselves. But even after those big stars left, the Avs had a bit of an attitude - and maybe they'd deny this, but - that they didn't need to increase the marketing of their team still, because they were still the mighty Avs and always sold out, and that's just the way it was. Well, they have started to learn the hard way that Avs fans can be just as fickle as everybody else.

When the stars left, I think a lot of the casual fans asked themselves: "Who are these guys?" The Avs compounded the problem, I believe, with a lackluster ad campaign coming out of the lockout that did little to re-introduce the team and the sport to people.

I have NO idea why the Avs don't try to market guys like Paul Stastny a heck of a lot harder than they do. Why not buy some billboard-ad space, with a picture of Stastny smiling with his front teeth missing and some witty slogan above it? Something like, "Colorado Avalanche hockey - Pretty boys need not apply." Something like that. Or, spend a few of Stan Kroenke's many jillions of dollars on a fun TV ad. How about John-Michael Liles playing Ryan Smyth in a feisty game of bubble hockey? Most of the bubble-hockey games have it as the U.S. vs. Canada. Have an ad showing the loser having to sing the winning player's national anthem as the price for losing. Are you telling me it might not be humorous seeing Smyth having to belt out "The Star-Spangled Banner" though his gapped teeth?

In other words, HAVE SOME FUN AND SELL YOUR PRODUCT, Avalanche! Don't just announce a game time, throw the pucks out on the ice and expect 18,000 people to show up every time. Those days are gone, in case you haven't noticed.
(Dater totally was channeling my thoughts there, I know it :) ). Which brings us back to one of Mike Chamber's original article, and one of Jez's original counter-points:
Too few all-stars on the team and an unbalanced schedule that has too many of the same stars coming to town.
Too few All-Stars? The Avs have future Hall-of-Famer Joe Sakic, one of the game's brightest young stars in Paul Stastny, Ryan Smyth, and Milan Hejduk, to name a few names. The Avs have lots of exciting offensive talent, so it's not like the team is full of pluggers and grinders.
My conclusion on this goes something like this: The Avs attendance is down this season because:
  1. The effects of the lockout and recession are taking it's toll on the Avs attendance, which is even more pronounced because Denver has a smaller population than any other 4-sport town, and
  2. The Avs have been ineffective in marketing all their really good talented players to the local market. They had the benefit of Lord Stanley to make marketing easy before, but they need to pick up their effort until they can get the silver chalice back.
Now, can we all talk about something that's REALLY important: Like Peter Budaj's new awesome "Assassin's Creed" Mask.