It has long been a contentious issue that there are too many Maple Leafs and Canadiens fans in attendance whenever those teams visit Scoitabank Place, so much to the point that it is almost a 50-50 split.
To that end, the Ottawa Senators started a promotion called “Take Back The Bank”, in effect making a proactive effort to reduce the number of Leafs and Habs fans in attendance. They encouraged season seat holders if they couldn’t use their tickets for the games to either “ensure other Sens fans are in your seats” or to contact them and they “will help you exchange your tickets for another game or sell them to other Sens fans.”
Part two of the promotion was to offer discounts to season ticket holders through an online discount with a password to get 20% off their ticket purchases.
Fair enough. Obviously the organization want to get as many Senators fans in the building as possible, but the edge the Senators were walking on sort of blew up in their face when the Toronto media got a hold of the story and spun it that Toronto fans were not welcome in the building.
This became a PR headache for the Sens to the point that Senators President Cyril Leeder had to backpedal in an interview on Sportsnet Thursday to reiterate that Leafs fans are welcome and it was simply a promotion to encourage Sens fans to buy the tickets. He said the right things, but it was a very awkward looking couple of minutes.
Either way, this just looks bad on the franchise. It is one thing for the fan base to do something about it, but it is entirely another for the club itself to try and artificially manufacture the fan base.
Its the biggest case of desperation since 2004 when then Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli tried to pass a by-law banning Leafs jerseys at the then-named Corel Centre for the playoffs. It looked bad on the city then, and this promotion doesn’t look much better optically.
Not to mention that the password got out, and now the fans of the Blue team will be at their disruptive best, because if the fan base is anything, it is belligerent and will take the opportunity to be louder and more obnoxious than ever.
The Leafs and Habs have about 80 years on the Sens in terms of building a fan base. Many of the fans are long time Leafs Fans or kids that grew up in that unfortunate environment , and like some political leanings, are passed down from generation to generation. It will slowly change over time, and it is changing. But until the Senators beat the Leafs in a playoff series or wins a Stanley Cup, that transition will continue to be slower than Sens fans want.
Remember, the Senators became good in the early 90′s and then went to the final in 2007. The fans that the club converted at that time are still not in the position to be top-end consumers yet. The day will come, and patience is a virtue.
I just hope that the plan hasn’t backfired to the point that SBP becomes ACC V2.o tonight.