Now Boarding: Blue Jackets’ Bandwagon

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WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: Nick Foligno #71 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky #72 after Foligno scored the game winning goal in overtime to give the Blue Jackets a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on December 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Blue Jackets’ bandwagon is growing. The Columbus hockey club has been playing above the media’s and fan’s expectations all season, and people are starting to take notice. In the midst of a nine-game winning streak, more bandwagon and casual fans are starting to hop on board.

Now Boarding: Blue Jackets’ Bandwagon

TV Ratings

With the Blue Jackets garnering a 20-5-4 record through their first 29 games, unsurprisingly, TV viewership is up. Compared to last season, the Jackets are drawing 33% more viewers. Through the first 26 games, the team has been averaging a household rating of 1.35, which is good enough for third best in the franchise’s history, behind the 2009-10 season (1.84) and the inaugural season in 2000-01 (1.41). The 2009-10 season was the season after the team made its first playoff appearance.

So what does a 1.35 household rating mean? According to bizjournals.com, that “equates to about 12,400 homes in the Columbus media market tuned into Jackets games.” At the very least, people around Columbus are starting to watch their hockey team on a more regular basis compared to years past. Those figures are pretty reassuring. More of the casual fans seem to be tuning in, helping the television ratings, but how has attendance been?

Attendance

Through the first 14 home games, the Blue Jackets are averaging 13,497 in attendance. That means they only rank 27th in the league. That’s not great. Nationwide Arena seats 18,500 people, so this season on average the arena has only been about 73% full. In 41 games last season, the average attendance was 14,665. Last season was rough and incredibly disappointing for fans, so it’s not unprecedented that attendance hasn’t been too high. Naturally people would be apprehensive to attend the Jackets games when most everyone thought they would be towards the bottom of the standings yet again.

Hopefully, that will all begin to change. This team has continued to string together wins, making them look like a legitimate threat. They are for real. The next step is to get these bandwagon and casual fans to get their butts to Nationwide, helping to give the attendance numbers a nice bump. Things seem to be trending that way. Weekend games will always yield the best attendance numbers for a smaller market like Columbus. The Jackets’ last Saturday night game, on December 10th versus the New York Islanders, was the highest Saturday attendance so far this season. 16,928 fans showed up, meaning the arena was 93.3% full. The fact that Ohio State football is pretty much all finished up should mean that these kind of numbers will begin to be the norm, hopefully even higher. It’s no surprise that OSU football rules all in Columbus, so with that out of the way, it will give the hardcore OSU fans a better opportunity to start supporting their hometown hockey team.

How Do You Get Bandwagon and Casual Fans To Stick Around?

The obvious answer to this is for the team to keep on winning. That’s easier said than done. The problem with most bandwagon fans is that they jump ship as soon as things start to go sour. It’d be nice to think that most would at least finish out the season, but it’s entirely possible that some of those bandwagoners would be put off by even a slight losing streak, and abandon the team. That’s why there’s a difference between “bandwagon fans” and “casual fans.” Bandwagon fans jump on board only when the team is winning regularly, and when the losses start piling up again, they vanish. Casual fans are people that are more willing to tune in if there’s nothing else that they have going on. These fans might enjoy watching and attending a few games, but not necessarily know much about the team make up or the sport in general. So how do we get these types of fans to stay with the Blue Jackets?

Besides the team continuing to win, there are a few things you can do as a regular, hardcore fan to convert these people into full-time Jackets fans. First off, try taking a friend to a game, even if they’ve never seen a hockey game in their life. The game day atmosphere is fun to be involved in, and hockey is a fast-paced, exciting game to watch! Share the traditions, like shouting “LEO!” after anthem singer Leo Welsh is introduced. Tell them about the Chili Chant. If they don’t have a clue what’s going on in the game, teach them.

This brings us to the second point: share your knowledge about the sport and team with your friends that might be casual fans. Try to teach them what icing is. Give them a breakdown of who the better players on the Jackets are. Share with them who your favorite players are. Explain to them why Sergei Bobrovsky and Nick Foligno’s post game hug is so popular and special. This team’s culture has changed in recent years, and it’s very easy to fall in love with these Blue Jackets. Tell your friends what the team means to you.

Finally, be welcoming and open to any new fans. Don’t accuse them of just jumping on the bandwagon because the team is performing well. Welcome them! Try to persuade them to stick around even if things end up going south. Put on your salesman hat and try to sell them on the Columbus Blue Jackets! If we all do our part as regular fans of this team, we can grow this fanbase and hopefully continue to improve both the TV ratings and the attendance numbers. It starts with the Blue Jackets’ bandwagon, and hopefully will end with them being die-hard Fifth Liners.

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