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HARTLEY MILLER’S HART ATTACK – (Spruce Kings attendance hits seven year low) JANUARY 19th, 2018 EDITION 663

The Prince George Spruce Kings are enjoying one of their best seasons since joining the BCHL over 20 years ago in 1996-97.

The Spruce Kings have never had a team finish in first place in the league, but that may change in 2017-18.

They are in a three-way battle with the Langley Rivermen and the Surrey Eagles for top spot in the Mainland Division.

After Thursday’s action, all three teams have 50 points.

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Prince George and Langley have 15 games left, while Surrey has 14 remaining.

With on ice success, it’s baffling that the team is struggling at the gate.

In fact, they are averaging about 900 fans a game at the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena (RMCA), the lowest total since 2010-11, and more than a 10% decrease from the previous season.

Last night for the Penticton game (which the Vees won 4-1), the announced crowd was just 656.

In each of the last five years, the average has been 999 or higher.

In 2016-17, the Spruce Kings had a record of 25-27-4-2, a far cry from this season’s mark of 21-14-4-4, yet last year the average crowd was 1,014.

What happened to the theory if you win, the support will follow?

Taking this a step further, the Spruce Kings are 15-4-1-1 in their own rink, one of the best home records in the BCHL.

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They only have seven home games remaining before the post-season.

In addition, the team runs a Friday night promotion where they practically give away their product.

Fans can purchase at Save On Foods, the Friday Family Special of four tickets (including two Adults), four Pepsi and four Popcorn for just $19.72 (regular price $68).

The Spruce Kings announced this week a three-year contract extension for General Manager Mike Hawes, which based on recent results is well deserved.

The team is obviously pleased with the progression of the on ice performance, but what’s behind the decline of ticket sales?

Is it lack of marketing?

Is it general fan apathy?

Is it the regular season has lost its appeal since just about every team makes the playoffs?

I am not sure there is one answer, and if the Spruce Kings knew, they would obviously try to address the problem.

There’s been plenty of discussion about the Prince George Cougars struggles to attract fans going from an average of 3,626 in 2016-17 to this season’s current average of 2,931, a drop of nearly 700 a game.

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In the Cougars scenario, the two possible reasons for the decline are …

  • The new ticket pricing policy that took effect in September (charging by seat selection rather than by age)
  • The significant tumble in the standings

The Spruce Kings have neither of those concerns, especially since the team has improved immensely from a year ago.

I still believe it is fair to suggest that Prince George still loves its junior hockey, but the numbers indicate not as much this season as prior years.

Photo Courtesy of Vicki Brown Photography



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Hartley Miller is the sports director and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT.
He also is the 94.3 radio color commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @Hartley_Miller

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