Senators still struggling with ticket sales as season opens

OTTAWA — It appears the Ottawa Senators ticket struggles haven’t gone away.

More than 300 tickets were still available minutes before puck drop on Thursday as the Senators opened the regular season against the defending Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals.

Ticket struggles came to the forefront last season when Ottawa failed to sell out Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Rangers.

Hoping to avoid the issue again this year, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk revealed last month that capacity at Canadian Tire Centre had been reduced by 1,500, with seats in the upper bowl being covered by tarps.

The move was made in hopes it would drive the demand for tickets as last season often saw too many empty seats.

Ottawa counts on a significant game-day crowd, unlike most cities, as its rink is outside the downtown core in Kanata. Neither Melnyk, nor president Tom Anselmi would divulge season ticket numbers, but it remains an issue for the organization.

The Senators posted their lowest average game attendance last year with 16,744 fans, the lowest average since 1996-97 when it was 15,377.

Ottawa didn’t register its first sellout in 2016-17 until Dec. 29, which coincided with Daniel Alfredsson’s jersey retirement. Its lowest single game attendance was 11,061 on Oct. 18 against the Arizona Coyotes.

The Sens are coming off their deepest playoff run since 2007 as they advanced to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final, where they lost in double overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have much of their roster intact again this season.

With eight home games this month, two of which include a visit by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, the Senators stand a good chance of getting their first sellout well before December.

That being said, Ottawa failed to sell out last year’s home opener that featured Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews’ NHL debut.