"By nature, I'm a very positive person, and I will continue to be so,'' he said. "But I'm scratching my head as to exactly where everybody is.”
Saint John sits fourth in the QMJHL with an average of 3,433 fans per game. CHSJ News reported during the pre-season that that the Sea Dogs had over 2,100 season tickets. The Telegraph-Journal reported today that there is under 2,000.
"I tend to believe that there's certainly a core and maybe that core is 2,500 fans,” said the Dogs president. “Then there are extra fans that come out for a reason, maybe to follow a certain player or for entertainment. I refuse to believe we can't grow this (fan) base to 4,000. We would be happy with any average number over 4,000.''
Shockingly, Long said that the team is open, and somewhat desperate, for ideas.
"We're looking for ideas and we're not afraid to say it. We're looking for ways to add that sizzle to get people to come.''
Sea Dogs fans have been giving the team ideas for years only to have almost all of them turned down. Station Nation has given the club there fair share of ideas but all were placed in the virtual garbage can.
For a team that is know five years old, attendance should be increasing and not declining. Saint John set a Canadian Hockey League attendance record in 2005-06 for an inaugural team. Ever since then, interest has declined.
"The old build-it-and-they-will-come theory isn't working for us to date,'' Long said. "We weren't ready for this. We didn't expect to be down by well over 400 fans per game."
What the article doesn't mention is the fact that the entire Saint John area was lied to last season. The Sea Dogs were projected to be one of the top teams in the country but it turned out to be all media hype. The slogan adopted by the team last season has since been banned from this website.
"We have a solid business plan and a solid business model. Nobody is panicking. It's just puzzling and disappointing that the best we can do is an average of 3,400 fans in these 13 games."
Not panicking? Maybe they should be. There have been only two games this season with crowds over 4,000 with one of them being the home opener. Comments about the situation have been disheartening, with fans saying on popular news sites that the this wouldn't happen if the Flames were still in the city.
With the massive weekend set to begin tomorrow night, the organization will know where they stand after the split against Drummondville and Quebec.
"I think these players are working their hearts out,'' Long said of the Sea Dogs. "They're focused, they're dedicated, they're acting like pros this year and I think they deserve to have a full house on the weekend.''
Unfortunately there will be no sell-out, but the team can only blame themselves. Other than a radio commercial and newspaper ad, these two games have been marketed just like every other game this season.
It's time for the Sea Dogs stop complaining and start acting.