Maple Leafs’ ticket sales continue to fall

TORONTO — Finding your way into a Maple Leafs home game may never have been so easy.

Tickets for four of the team’s five remaining dates at Air Canada Centre were still available on Ticketmaster as of Thursday morning, including dozens for Thursday night’s visit by the Florida Panthers.

StubHub, the secondary broker, had hundreds of available tickets for the Panthers game and the majority of them were being sold below face value.

It pointed to the likelihood that Thursday would become the third time this season where the Leafs played in front of less-than-capacity crowd at home.

On Monday, the team announced its lowest attendance figure — 18,366 — for a regular-season game in the 16-year history of the building. It lost 2-1 to Minnesota that night to see its record fall to 8-32-3 since mid-December.

All of that losing is finally taking a toll at the box office, although Toronto still sits seventh overall in NHL attendance this season and charges the highest ticket prices in the league.

Among the remaining home games on the schedule are two visits by Ottawa and another from Montreal in the April 11 regular-season finale, all of which should draw crowds above the ACC’s capacity of 18,819.

An extremely high percentage of Leafs tickets are held by season seat-holders and the waiting list to become one of those stretches back for years. That has traditionally made it tough for the average fan to get inside the building (to say nothing of the price).

However, with the team headed for its worst finish in more than two decades, fans have started to stay home. Strangely enough, the Leafs actually boast a winning record at the ACC — 19-16-1 compared with 8-25-5 on the road — but have been booed often there and saw sweaters thrown on the ice earlier this season.

Soon the year will be over and the organization can start looking ahead to the future. The NHL’s draft lottery is scheduled for April 18 and the Leafs currently hold a 9.5 per cent chance of landing Connor McDavid.

Even if they don’t strike lucky, they’ll likely pick no worse than fifth overall.

As frustrated as fans are with the state of the team right now, there’s very little reason to believe that empty seats will become a trend that carries into next season. History tells us that one of hockey’s most loyal fanbases will be back in October.

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