RHINO’S RAMBLINGS – Calling All Fans


Robert Thomas

With the Moose Jaw Warriors leading not only their division, conference and the entire Western Hockey League one question being asked is where are all of the fans? Why isn't Mosaic Place selling out? 

It's been a hot button topic out on coffee row for the last month. It's also a question coffee row seems to have no answer for. The usually knowledgeable crew is unusually stumped. It is a paradox which has me wondering what's the problem and better yet, what is the solution? How do you fill the stands?

I have heard lots of opinions out there as to why the Warriors have been unable to sell out in what should be the perfect year for attendance. The stands should be full and the crowds cheering, but for some reason it's just not happening.

Are the people at the games cheering? Yes, and this year very loudly, but it would be nice to see more inspiring the tribe and the sea of red, not empty seats but actual Warrior jerseys.

Some people point to the ticket cost as a deterrent to attendance. People simply cannot afford to go out anymore. But is this necessarily true? Sadly, it is for some on fixed incomes. It is simply too expensive to go to the games. For others it is mobility issues preventing them from getting there. Demographically, many of the Warrior fans are getting on in age and despite their love for the team the “old Moose Jaw Canuck faithful” are getting older. It's not easy to make it. It's expensive to take a taxi to attend games, if you don't drive too much anymore.  It is also tough to attend if many of the people you once used to go to games with have passed on.

So is it demographics that is keeping the stands from being filled during such a winning season? Could it be the real reason the Warriors are not selling out night after night? Or is there more to it than that?

I took a look a social media and my feeds when it comes to local interaction and I did notice one thing and that is the main Warrior boosters out there on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram didn't tie into a lot of people I know never attend the Warrior’s games.

We live in a world of other interests and people today are not as tied to their local community as they once were. And if they are tied to their local community there is so much else going on right now. The days of junior hockey being the only show in town are long over. It's like attending church. I remember in the past most of the churchgoers would often talk about the fortunes of the Canucks, today though, as you enjoy the pot luck lunch only one person is leaving to get to a Sunday afternoon game, when in the past most including the priest were on their way there.

Hockey is not the religion it once was but then again neither is religion. There has been a fundamental shift to other things. Other sources of entertainment and fulfilment.

It needs to be remembered that, demographically, Moose Jaw is changing. Immigration is fuelling our population, preventing it from going into decline. We are even growing some but at the same time what efforts have been made to introduce the latest settlers to a game they may not totally understand or have even seen before? 

But with that I can also tell you there is interest in how the team is doing and more than a few immigrants have asked me how did the Warriors do last night? Or they tell me how great the team is doing – based upon news reports – but they have never been to a game in their entire lives. Is the opportunity there for the Warriors to reach out to fans whose only knowledge of ice in their homelands is it is made in refrigerators? 

We also need to remember Mosaic Place still has political connotations for a lot of people and there are still some very hurt feelings on both sides of that great divisive debate.

Some who voted NO will never attend a game due to principal and I can tell you more than a couple I know were long time season ticket holders dating back to the Canucks’ days. While others who were opposed say they don't feel right when people on the YES side call them hypocritical for showing up despite the fact all taxpayers are paying for the facilities.

Some people have even pointed to the weather and parking as why people aren't showing up. When it is -30C many people don't want to leave their homes to begin with then walk two or more blocks after finding a parking spot. Parking and weather are two major reasons people aren't showing up.

I know of two former season ticket holders from the Canucks to the Warriors’ era who voted YES on the referendum but once Mosaic Place was up and running they haven't gone to a single game. The parking made them give it up but they still read about, talk about and otherwise support the team.

With the loss of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald there has also been a loss in the connection to the team. Sure the publication deadline of the Times-Herald in it's last death throes was none to conducive to Warrior fans as game reports often no longer showed up the next day.

And let's be honest even the MJ Independent doesn't carry too much in the way of Warrior stuff. We do game reports but I may as well be honest and tell you we are not accredited WHL media. As far as I know we don’t even receive press releases from the Tribe.

As playoffs quickly approach that may well change but I don't make those decisions. 

Have I ever personally covered hockey before? Yes most definitely but it's been well over 25 years since I wrote an actual Warrior game report. I remember the days of Mike Babcock coaching from my time covering the Tribe.

A few weeks back I began covering minor hockey and I will be honest those games I covered were the first ones I wrote up game reports for in 25 years. It's been a long time and I am, I will admit, a little bit rusty at doing it.

If you know of someone who is knowledgeable, would like to write up games and can act professional doing it we are willing to take a look at you. But remember it is just a labour of love. To cover the Warriors the way they should be covered is time consuming.

Then again Moose Jaw is known for it's fickle fans. We are quick to find fault in the smallest things.

Mayor Frasier Tolmie has even stepped up to the plate early this year with his jersey challenge and hopefully that inspires people to come out. The world of civic politics has finally realized it's good to have some pride in your City despite some very tough times. 

Whether it works or not is yet to be seen but it also needs to be noted out in Bronco land Mayor Dennis Perrault is often out with their team mascot Charlie Horse promoting the team in a campaign to fill the stands. Whether we will see our Mayor out with Morty hitting the schools promoting the team is yet to be determined.

I know there are those who might snicker if I even suggested such a thing happening here but as it stands right now every fan the mayor, and others, can attract to show up is also good for the City’s bottom line. The contract with the Warriors is one where when the team does well we do well.

Let that be an incentive to those of you looking to see some savings in your property tax bill.

But there is also a large group of people out there in the community that hockey is no longer or never has been all that important. And yes I just wrote that. I wouldn't call hockey a dying sport but yes the faith just isn't there anymore. 

So it all leaves me wondering is it all just a bunch of excuses why Mosaic Place hasn't been sold out game after game? Is it the real answer? Are there potential fans out there who take the easy way out?

Personally I believe it all comes down to buzz and hopefully we start to hear more of it in the next few weeks. 

This is the year we may very well see a local Memorial Cup champion and by inspiring the Tribe with packed stands here's hoping it's us and not the Pats.

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