• By: Dave Gross

Senators must be asking – where is everyone?

So, here’s a question – would you hand over your hard-earned dollars to watch a young, mistake-prone yet energetic pro hockey team play in the world’s toughest league?

The answer in Ottawa – yep, I’m talking to you – is apparently, not so much.

Ottawa’s sad-sack attendance numbers have become the elephant in the room. No one really, truly wants to talk about it. Just ignore it; sweep it under the rug; make it go away.

Unfortunately this is an issue that needs addressing.

The Ottawa Senators are dead last in league attendance.

With an average of just 12,132 tickets sold per game, Ottawa now sits behind even the league dregs in Florida and Arizona.

It’s concerning, even in a season hallmarked as a rebuilding one.

Hit the chat boards locally and most are ducking their heads deep into the sand.

‘Oh, it’s just because of the owner . . . things will get better when Eugene sells.’

‘Oh, it’s just because of the Phoenix pay fiasco.’

‘Oh, it’s just because I don’t want to watch a bunch of unproven kids.’

‘Oh, it’s just because the rink’s too far away.’

‘Oh, it’s just because Brady Tkachuk’s such a dull player.’ (Just seeing if you’re keeping awake.)

Regardless, trot out all the excuses you want, this is a travesty.

It would be bad enough if you were the afore-mentioned Panthers or Coyotes, or the grossly underachieving New Jersey Devils or another team in full rebuild in Anaheim.

But this is Canada.

Have you heard? Apparently hockey is our game.

You can’t get a ticket in Toronto, that’s a given. Montreal, a team that might not be heading to the playoffs as well, averages more than 21,000 per home game (playing to 99.1 per cent capacity); Vancouver draws 18,663 (98.7 per cent); Calgary, touch n’ go for post-season play, averages 18,681 (97 per cent); Edmonton averages 17,579 (94.2 per cent); Winnipeg hauls in 15,968 per night but as they skate in a smallish facility that works out to a nightly capacity percentage of 110.5 (not sure how that exactly works).

Here in the nation’s capital?  

Capacity sits on average at 63.3 per cent.

That’s concerning enough but when you figure in ‘trends’ it gets more troubling.

Last season, Ottawa averaged 14,553 (27th league-wide). In 2017-18, the team was 24th in the NHL boasting an average of 15,829 bums in seats. In 2016-17 the team was 21st with a nightly average of 16,744. Ottawa was 17th in 2015-16 (18,084) and the season previous, the Senators drew an average of 18,246, good for 16th.

It doesn’t take my Grade 8 math teacher, Mr. Bateman, to help me with these figures.

They’re disturbing.

News, notes and notions: Not much to like in Ottawa’s on-ice performance Saturday in Winnipeg. This was one straight from the cliché-bag – men versus boys . . . Sportsnet’s Brian Burke had the most appropriate response to those poo-pooing the Toronto-L.A. deal that brought goalie Jack Campbell and tough winger Kyle Clifford to the Leafs: “It’s a trade that addresses two positional needs at a price that makes sense. Guess what I’m doing? Applauding. Good job (GM Kyle Dubas) . . . More from Burke on Clifford: “He’s mean, he’s ugly . . . he’s a hard-nosed guy. Hits on the road, hits at home, fights when he should. A good positional player who works really hard and is a popular teammate.” . . . The Senators get a chance to rain on the Leafs’ playoff hopes Saturday as Toronto visits Ottawa. This one should bump up the attendance numbers, but not in a good way of you’re an Ottawa fan . . . One thing about the Senators the past two seasons? They always play the highly talented Leafs tough.

Senators – the week ahead:

Tuesday, Feb. 11: Ottawa at Colorado (9 pm)

Thursday, Feb. 13: Arizona at Ottawa (7:30 pm)

Saturday, Feb. 15: Toronto at Ottawa (7 pm)

Sunday, Feb. 16: Dallas at Ottawa (6 pm)