Sens near perfect attendance

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

So much for a lockout hangover. Ottawa Senators ticket sellers are giddy after another record-breaking weekend of ticket sales.

After sizzling sales Saturday -- when the Senators put single-game tickets for the second half of the season on sale -- Senators president Roy Mlakar said the club is on pace to break its single-season attendance mark.

"We're on target to sell out 31 of our 41 home games right now," said Mlakar, "and that can only get better. We'll beat the attendance record."

The Senators single-season attendance mark is 729,515 (an average of 17,793) in the 2000-2001 season in what was then the 18,500-seat Corel Centre.

With the capacity boosted by making more tickets available in the suites, the Senators have averaged 19,220 through 11 home games this season.

That translates into total attendance in the 788,000-range. Saturday's strong sales -- there were 250 people in line when the doors opened -- indicate the strong support at the gate should continue.

55% INCREASE

The Senators sold 5,000 individual game tickets in 30 minutes Saturday over the Internet.

By 4 p.m. Saturday, the Senators had sold 16,500 tickets through all point of purchase means (Internet, phone, box-office and Sports Experts stores).

That's a 55% increase over the same day in 2003-04.

There were some dire predictions about how the lockout would affect fan support for NHL hockey.

Turns out they were unfounded, at least here.

"I knew we would come back strong despite the fact we were in the same battle with season tickets," said Mlakar. "Making the players available, doing the things we did at the beginning of the year, making it fan friendly, reducing prices and being up front and saying some of those seats were too expensive, paid dividends for us."

CORPORATE SALES LAG

The one area that is lagging is corporate sales. Most corporations had already committed the money they might have spent on a suite at an NHL rink by the time the lockout was resolved mid-summer.

That means despite record attendance, overall revenues could be down and that could mean a reduction in the league's salary cap next year.

"Players see the larger attendance, but they have to realize corporate sales are going to be down for all 30 teams and the league," said Mlakar.

"Hopefully, as we grow the game and product, we'll get that back next year."


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