Citizen Article - Brodsky SpeaksJanuary 20 2006 at 8:03 AM
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Friday, January 20, 2006
Brodsky: 'hate me, but support the kids'
Cougars president says players are worthy of larger crowd counts at CN Centre
by JIM SWANSON, Citizen Sports Editor
Prince George Cougars owner Rick Brodsky has a message for those who may be avoiding CN Centre out of disdain for him — you can hate me all you want, but the players deserve the city's support.
In an interview with The Citizen on Wednesday evening, Brodsky broke a long silence about the attendance woes of the WHL club. The Cougars have the lowest crowd counts in the Western Conference, undercut only by small-market and small-building franchises such as the Prince Albert Raiders, Swift Current Broncos, Moose Jaw Warriors and Brandon Wheat Kings.
"You know, I'd like to get this message across — it's really not the money part that bothers me so much as it's the fact these kids and our staff are working so hard and yet the building is only half-full," said Brodsky, who moved the Cougars to Prince George from Victoria in 1994.
"I think the players who are here are proud to represent the city of Prince George. Forget about the money, and I can look anyone in the eye and mean it when I say it, forget about the money for a second. The players deserve more support, more people in the building cheering them on, than they've been getting. They absolutely deserve it. They have played their asses off. Can you imagine, we win three in a row on the road, tough, tough games, get seven points ahead of Kamloops, then 2,800 people come out to see the top team in the league? Hardly anybody there. I couldn't say much when we were at the bottom, and I'm not saying we're too far from the bottom now the way this division is, but we're nine games over .500, 16-6 at home, it's not like we're not giving them a pretty good product.
"We're not asking people to flog a dead horse. We have a team that is proud to represent them and is playing well."
Three times this season, the Cougars have set new lows for attendance at CN Centre, hitting the bottom in a Wednesday, Jan. 4 game against Kelowna when the announced crowd was 2,453 — under 2,500 for the first time. In reality, less than 2,000 people were in the building because a large number of season ticket holders and suite dwellers didn't show up.
The high-water mark for the season was, not surprisingly, Teddy Bear Toss night on Dec. 17 when 4,170 appeared. For the season, the Cougars are averaging 3,054 through 23 home dates. According to Brodsky, that's 25 per cent short of the team's break-even mark, which brings with it a projected loss of a half-million dollars.
"At one time our break-even was between 3,200 and 3,300 people per game," said Brodsky, who also owns the Wichita Falls Wildcats of the junior A North American Hockey League.
"Because we have not raised ticket prices for so long, the break-even is now 4,000 or just a bit under. One of the things that half drives me nuts is I get the feeling there are still people out there who think I'm making money at this. We haven't made money for quite some time. Now, I don't want to be a hypocrite, when times were good I wasn't going to tell anybody how much money we were making. When times are bad, I'd just as soon not tell them either, except I'd like people to get a little grasp on the size of the losses here.
"Best-case scenario for me is that people would be relatively well-informed what's going on. I'm not going to force anyone to do anything, but if they don't want to have major junior hockey — if there's 3,000 people going, there must be 75,000 staying away. That's too many people staying away. We've done just about everything the organization can think of to get more people in the building, and it's kind of a scary thing when you're playing pretty good and the attendance is going down, not up."
As a private corporation, the Cougars are not required to release profit-loss statements or even divulge the number of season tickets sold. But Brodsky said Wednesday that season ticket numbers have dropped to less than half what they were five or six years ago.
"At our best, we were in excess of 4,000 season tickets, and I would say now that we're somewhere between 1,500 and 1,700," said Brodsky.
"We're trying to double and re-double our efforts in the community. The other point is, you get a chance to see what kind of hockey team we have. I think we have a pretty good hockey team, and it's exciting, too, as far as hockey goes these days. When season ticket numbers go down you keep telling yourself that if you're competitive and put a good product on the ice, you'd be able to attract some walkup. We just haven't been. I mean, 2,400 on a Wednesday against Kelowna? We're playing pretty good and Kelowna's a rival and the defending champs..."
The danger in all this, of course, is that Brodsky's franchise is on pace for revenue totals that will allow the Cougars to enact the opt-out clause in the recently agreed-to lease for CN Centre. The three-year pact lets the club pay a penalty and leave the deal behind — and presumably leave the city behind.
"As we go here, the attendance is going down here, not up, and we were on target to miss it in the first place," said Brodsky.
"Now that attendance is going down more, we're going to miss the target by a bigger amount. For this year, we need to reach ticket revenue of $1.25 million. If we don't reach that on ticket revenue, from exhibition right through playoffs, then we have an opportunity to buy our way out of the lease.
"We can't make it on 3,000, just as simple as that. I have no intention on trying to make it on 3,000 for too long. The only incentive I'd have to move is that we're winning and no one is coming to the games."
- Citizen Article - January 20, 2005 - Owner refuses to cut back on hockey-side expenses - DenMod on Jan 20, 8:05 AM
- Re: Citizen Article - Brodsky Speaks - Wow on Jan 20, 8:06 AM
- Brodski does not have a clue! - BobCougar on Jan 20, 10:10 AM
- Fan support should not have to be "won back" - Fatcat on Jan 20, 10:53 AM
- WELL SAID... - Cougs101 on Jan 20, 11:21 AM
- bang on - yat on Jan 20, 11:30 AM
- PRINCIPLES... - COOGSUPERFAN on Jan 20, 5:05 PM
- bottom line - kfan on Jan 22, 6:09 PM
- COUGS - SECTION H on Jan 20, 11:28 AM
- DISAGREE... - COOGSUPERFAN on Jan 20, 4:57 PM
- Re: Brodski does not have a clue! - Chicago on Jan 20, 12:23 PM
- bobcougar - lappy on Jan 20, 1:07 PM
- again bobbycougar - lappy on Jan 20, 1:33 PM
- A few comments... - Sput on Jan 20, 1:41 PM
- PG get another team? - FWF on Jan 20, 4:59 PM
- exactly - wish6fan on Jan 22, 12:15 AM
- The thing that got me the most . . . - Cougar Guy on Jan 20, 5:07 PM
- I agree - jam32 on Jan 20, 5:36 PM
- Re: The thing that got me the most . . . - smileyjones on Jan 20, 7:01 PM
- Re: The thing that got me the most . . . - Anonymous on Jan 20, 11:45 PM
- PLAIN AND SIMPLE? - smileyjones on Jan 21, 9:28 AM
- Okay . . . - Cougar Guy on Jan 21, 10:23 AM
- Cougar Guy hit the nail on the head. - jam32 on Jan 21, 12:11 PM
- Ever been to a game in Kelowna? - SomeBoy on Jan 21, 11:09 AM
- This is where Brodsky needs improvement - Fatcat on Jan 22, 10:32 AM
- he apparently does not......... - cougarman on Jan 21, 6:44 PM