|Craig Anderson's strong play in goal since his arrival via trade from Colorado gave Senators fans plenty to cheer about down the stretch (Getty Images).
The future is now for the Ottawa Senators.
And it's a message that is already resonating with the National Hockey League team's fan base in a number of encouraging ways.
While the Senators fell short of an Eastern Conference playoff berth in three seasons, fans continued to fill the seats at Scotiabank Place right to year's end, showing their support for the youthful direction the team put on full display over the final 25 games of the season. Backstopped by strong play from goaltending acquisition Craig Anderson
, the Senators posted an impressive 14-9-1 finish to their season.
Average attendance for 41 games at Scotiabank Place was 18,379, up 109 per game over the previous season. In addition, 16 sellouts were recorded, four more than in the 2009-10 campaign.
Further evidence that fans are buying into the change in the team's direction comes in the area of season-seat renewals, which are nine percentage points ahead of the same point last year as of March 31. A year ago, the franchise saw a record 90 per cent renewal rate.
Senators Sports & Entertainment president Cyril Leeder said all the attendance and renewal numbers are clear indicators that fans like the direction in which the team is now heading.
“Many factors have helped spark our fans to renew their seats for next season,” said Leeder. “Most importantly, we’ve seen from surveys and our in-person Hot Stove receptions that fans are excited about what they’ve seen on the ice in the last 25 games and what the future looks like. They believe we are on the right track by building a team around our core of veterans, including new goaltender Craig Anderson
, and developing and drafting talented young players.”
The Senators will have 12 picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, including the sixth and 21st selections in the first round and a trio of second-rounders, all of which should help further build the team's talent base for seasons to come.
A number of other key business gains were recorded by the organization in 2010-11. Corporate advertising revenue increased by eight per cent, while Senators telecasts on Rogers Sportsnet averaged 160,000 per game, a rise of 18 per cent. This season marked the first time all 82 Sens games were available to cable and satellite subscribers in the team's broadcast region.
New programs have also been unveiled to reward season-seat owners for their support in the 2011-12 season. In addition to offering priority access to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, a flexible benefits package has been introduced that allows season-seat owners to choose the benefits that matter the most to them.
"We are doing more than ever to recognize the loyalty of our season-seat owners and create new benefits that will appeal to current and prospective fans," said Leeder.
The 2010-11 season was a huge success story at the league level as well, with the NHL on pace to hit record levels in overall league revenue for the fifth straight year. That number, which is expected to reach $2.9 billion by the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs, includes significant increases from sponsorships and NHL Enterprises sales.
Television viewership of league games increased across the board in Canada on CBC, TSN and RDS, and in the United States on NBC and Versus.
For further details about the NHL's year in business, click here.