If the American Hockey League were to announce the conclusion of the 2019-20 regular season today, it wouldn’t look good for the Manitoba Moose.
It’s no surprise that the AHL has done the same to its parent league, the NHL, by temporarily halting play. the surprise, however, may be that the season isn’t postponed at all, but instead ends or concludes, so to speak.
with the cancellation of the echl and almost every other professional league in the world, except the nhl and khl, it seems that it will only be a matter of time until the 2019-20 season of the ahl, with the cup cauldron. the playoffs begin when play resumes.
With many speculating on a ‘percentage points’ style postseason buy-in for the ahl and its 31 member clubs, the calder cup would have the same 16 team postseason format that ahl fans have come to expect. appreciate in the last number of years. the first round would once again be best-of-five playoffs, while the second through fourth rounds would feature best-of-seven matchups.
As the point percentage tiebreaker currently stands, there would be no change to the current standings (ordered by total points) as the four division-ranked teams would stay true to their positions. Unfortunately for Manitoba, the Moose would miss the postseason by a significant mark.
Head coach Pascal Vincent and Moose saw several regulars spend significant time away from the team, receiving calls to play for the Jets as a spate of injuries decimated the team’s major league roster all season.
manitoba, unfortunately, did not have a good season, finishing in eighth place (of eight teams in the central division) with a total of 55 points (27-33-1). the moose had the fourth-most penalty minutes (856) in the entire league, while ranking fifth in goals for (160), fifth in points percentage (.451) and second-to-last in regulation wins (18).
Only three teams had fewer points than Manitoba (55) on the season: Bridgeport (53), Bakersfield (50) and San Jose (49). The Condors and Barracuda played five and six fewer games than Manitoba, respectively.
Adding to the difficult season is the fact that the Moose ranked 21st out of 31 teams league-wide in terms of total attendance. Since returning to the Maritime capital of Manitoba, the Moose have seen attendance numbers slowly drop. In 32 games in 2019-20, the Moose drew 158,739 fans to the MTS Place bell.
There was one event where the team outshone 8,000 fans (8,372 on New Year’s Eve). seven games saw fewer than 3,300 spectators. the game with the lowest attendance was on January 15 (2,842 in attendance). There were no Winnipeg Ice or Jets Road games that night. however, temperatures that night reached 26 degrees below zero.
Last season, cleveland led the way with a total of 280,318 fans for an average game attendance of 9,043. That’s a total of 121,579 more fans than Manitoba over the course of the shortened season, or 4,082 more fans per game.
average ahl game attendance year by year at bell mts place:
- 2015-16 – 7285 (ninth)
- 2016-17 – 5656 (13)
- 2017-18 – 5277 (18)
- 2018-19 – 4722 (22)
- 2019-20 – 4961 (21)
- The Chicago Wolves (operating in the same city as the Chicago Blackhawks) ranked 7th out of 31 (215,562 total or 7,185 average).
- toronto marlies (which operates in the same city as toronto maple leafs) ranked 13th out of 31 (169,447 total or 5,648 average).
- colorado eagles (which operates out of the same city as the colorado avalanche) ranked 18th out of 31 (155,380 total or 5,179 average).
- san jose barracuda (which operates in the same arena as the san jose sharks) ranked 28th out of 31 (105,367 total, or 3,512 average).
Interestingly, of the 32 home games, Manitoba went 18-14-0, with an average attendance of 4,755 during wins, while games the home team lost averaged 5,225 in attendance. therefore, more fans did not guarantee a better product on ice.
On a different note, the Moose are one of only four AHL teams currently operating in the same city as an NHL club (whether its parent/affiliate club or not). only manitoba and san jose operate in the same location. 2019-20 attendance figures are listed below:
since he returned to manitoba from st. John’s, the Moose have posted a .492 winning percentage. 2015-16 saw Manitoba rack up 61 points for a .401-point percentage, which was followed by 68 points (.447) in 2016-17. 2017-18 saw a major improvement as the Moose posted 92 points (.605), and then a .559-point percentage in 2018-19, before last season saw a drop in production as the team finished the game. with a percentage of .451 points – just below his five-year average.
with whl’s return to winnipeg for the 2019-20 season, moose faced another challenge: attracting attendees to bell mts place, unlike ice, which had an easier time as a new product in the city. the ice finished the 2019–20 season in a playoff spot, averaging 1,503 in attendance per game. the wayne fleming arena is the smallest whl building in the league, seating 1,600. By comparison, the Brandon Wheat Kings averaged 3,490 fans a night at Westman Place, which has a capacity of 5,102.
Last season saw six moose home games in which there were winnipeg ice scheduling conflicts, as well as six winnipeg jets road game scheduling conflicts. in addition to those 12 occurrences, three occasions (November 2, January 4, and January 19) saw moose, ice, and jets (on the road) play on the same day.
With the arrival of a new attraction in town (in the form of a relocated whl team) and the continued appreciation local jet fans have for their nhl team while traveling, moose owners continued to experience significantly fewer home game attendees. in 2019-20 than in previous years. the on-ice product left a lot to be desired, while more fans didn’t necessarily translate to more wins.
reading the market has generally been a stronghold of true north sports and entertainment. were the last two seasons of ahl just little blips on the radar, or is there actually something much bigger going on? only time will tell.