NHL to SEATTLE

Canadian impact on Mariners Attendance

by John

Long story short but I met a friend outside of Safeco on Tuesday night right around first pitch of the Mariners-Jays baseball game. He was running late so I was loitering around for about 15 minutes. I always knew that a lot of local Canadians would go check out the Jays when they came to town but I really figure that it was similar for every team (i.e. Michigan folk check out the Tigers, Bostonians check out the Red Sox, etc.) As I was waiting for my friend, I was shocked at how many Toronto shirts were going through the turnstiles. If I could venture a guess, it seemed like 60 to 70% of the people going in were Jays fans. Realistically, I know 60 to 70% wasn’t really possible for an out of town team but I noticed and wondered how I validate that observation. I’ve often mentioned to people that there sure seems like a lot of Canadians live in the area but have never been able to validate my theory.

Wednesday evening, I started to look at some Mariner attendance data. I went back 5 years and got game by game data so I could compare like games to Toronto’s games. The first thing to point out is that Monday through Thursday games average 30% less that Saturday or Sunday games. Here are how the last 5 years of Mariners have shaken out by day of the week:

Toronto comes to town every year and has only played mid-week series (opposed to Weekend Series) over the last 5 years and only in 2011 have they come to town twice (both times that year they played Monday – Wednesday). When we isolate the Blue Jays games these are how the numbers look:

As you can see the Blue Jays are a big draw for the Mariner’s compared to other games on the same day of the week. Over the last 5 years, the Jays have drawn 23% over average attendance for Mon-Wed games. This year they drew 52%, 74% & 79% higher for their Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday games. The Mariners-Blue Jays Tuesday and Wednesday games were the highest attended Tuesday and Wednesday games of the 2013 season. Monday was only the second highest Monday game attended…with opening day the highest attended Monday game of the year.

Digging deeper: Excluding interleague play, only the New York Yankees have drawn more fans than Toronto on Mon-Wed games. As you can see from the table to the right, Cubs & Atlanta have drawn better than Toronto over the last 5 years. Those teams have only played one series in the last 5 years and there is a novelty factor in trying to see all teams in the league.

I think this proves my point here, there is a huge impact on attendance when the Toronto comes to town. This is a mix of Canadians in the area as well as our brothers and sisters from Vancouver making the trek. I would love to know what % is coming from where but until the Mariners turn over their database to me, I don’t think it is going to happen.

To wrap it up, I looked at the top 10 highest attended Monday through Wednesday games over the last 5 years and remarkably, Toronto has 3 out of the top 10 but when you remove the 3 opening nights that fell on a Monday, Toronto had 3 of the Top 5. I knew Canadians would often attended the Blue Jays games but I never expected the impact could be so significant. With 7 Canadian NHL teams coming through Seattle a year, plus BC and Alberta teams coming through multiple times, we are looking at a guaranteed 10 sellouts a year which is already more than 8 teams in the NHL. This will be a distinct business advantage an NHL franchise in Seattle when comparing themselves to other teams because Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and even the Leafs do not draw well on the road in most US markets. The Canadian impact could be a lot bigger than any of us could have predicted.