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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Yesterday in its daily NHL Today media release, the league giddily announced it had set October attendance records with a per-game average of 17,388 – the first time in history attendance had surpassed 17,000 fans per game during the first month of the season – and a capacity average of 94.1 percent.

I’m not going to rail on the league for such pronouncements. Despite the appearance of large sections of empty seats in some arenas, we don’t have any hard evidence to contradict the league’s numbers. In fact, one third-party observer is posting data that supports the NHL’s claim.

But what about the ways teams are trying to put butts in the seats? What are the league’s bottom-dwellers doing to further that cause? Gas and food coupons have appeared in some NHL arenas. And all-you-can-eat sections have popped-up in Atlanta, Boston, Nashville and Phoenix.

But here’s a new one: The St. Louis Blues – who are seventh in average attendance according to ESPN, but 20th in average capacity and 28th in the standings – will pay your mortgage.

Yes that’s right Blues fans, as long as you’re a legal resident of Illinois or Missouri, you can win support payments.

In what can only be considered a bottom-of-the-barrel ticket-drive scheme, the Blues will draw one ticket during 11 Saturday home games beginning Nov. 29 and pay that person’s mortgage or rent for four months, up to a $4,000 maximum.

A novel idea to be sure, but it’s also more than a little insensitive. Whoever decided it would be OK to make light of the dire economic circumstances in the U.S. has some explaining to do to the people really feeling the economic pinch.

It’s not just that the Blues are cashing in on all the ink the sub-prime mortgage crisis has received around the world, they’re doing so shamelessly.

The promotion itself is called the Fan Bailout Plan – in reference to the controversial $700-billion government economic injection meant to prop up the U.S. economy. And the games are being billed as Fannie & Freddie Mortgage Saturdays – in reference to the U.S. mortgage giants the government took over in September and whose failures are at the heart of the economic crisis.

I, for one, am amazed at the level of insensitivity the Blues are showing. Thousands of American families have lost their homes and the entire world is feeling the effects of the U.S. recession, but the Blues and the NHL seem to think playing off that misery to sell a few extra tickets is a dandy idea.

Don’t these guys get it? Don’t they realize such promotions alienate the very people they’re trying to attract. Think about it, if your friend or family member had lost their home, would this promotion make you more or less likely to attend a game? For my part, I’d be more likely to not go to any Blues game with something like this on the go.

When you’re languishing near last overall and not putting enough butts in the seats, maybe any idea seems like a good one.

John Grigg is a copy editor with The Hockey News and a regular contributor to with his blog and the Top 10.

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