Plenty of empty seats at Senators-Rangers series opener in Ottawa

Ottawa Senators fan Ravi Patni of London, England poses with a gang of Senators prior to Ottawa playing the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of first round NHL Stanley Cup playoffs at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. Patri became a fan of NHL hockey due to the league's games played in Europe and he picked Ottawa as his team to follow. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

OTTAWA — Hundreds of empty seats dotted the crowd at Canadian Tire Centre as the Ottawa Senators beat the New York Rangers 2-1 on Thursday in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series.

Dozens of rows in the upper bowl were completely void of fans and there was even a noticeable smattering of vacant seats in the lower bowl.

The Senators had no comment when asked about the empty seats at the game and the attendance was not announced. The official game sheet said 16,744 fans were in the 19,153-seat arena.

The cheapest available seat for Thursday’s game was $96 and parking rose to $30. Staff members could be seen pulling free giveaway towels off the empty seats.

The Senators, playing in the second round for the first time in four years, sold out only one of three home games in the first round against Boston. The club struggled with attendance during the regular season too — tied with Columbus for 24th overall at 87.4 per cent capacity.

Not even the regular season opener against the rival Toronto Maple Leafs sold out. The first sellout — and biggest crowd of the year –didn’t come until Dec. 29 when Daniel Alfredsson’s jersey was retired.

Declining crowds were a factor in the firing of Senators business management staff earlier in the season.

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