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Jets owner: Attendance decline won't work long term

Jonathan Kozub / National Hockey League / Getty

Winnipeg Jets chairman Mark Chipman doesn't seem confident that the club's dwindling attendance figures bode well for the future of his team.

The Jets' season-ticket base has fallen from around 13,000 to roughly 9,500 in the last three years, the club confirmed, according to The Athletic's Chris Johnston.

"I wouldn't be honest with you if I didn't say, 'We've got to get back to 13,000,'" Chipman said. "This place we find ourselves in right now, it's not going to work over the long haul. It just isn't."

The Jets' arena, now known as the Canada Life Centre, is the NHL's smallest permanent facility at a capacity of 15,225 for hockey games.

Winnipeg is averaging only 13,098 in 28 home games this season, according to Hockey Reference. That exceeds only the Arizona Coyotes, who are playing in an NCAA building. The Jets' 87.3% capacity is the third-worst rate in the league ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks.

The Jets enjoyed sellout crowds for nearly a decade upon relocating from Atlanta in 2011. But their attendance has been trending downward since the pandemic, and Chipman acknowledged the NHL has taken notice.

"They pay attention," he said. "They see the numbers. They see where the league's at and where we're at. And we're an outlier right now. So, rightfully, they want to know, what are you doing? What's going on? What happened and what are you doing about it?"

The Jets have exceeded expectations on the ice despite their attendance troubles. They entered Friday with the best points percentage in the Central Division, trailing the first-place Dallas Stars by three points and the second-place Colorado Avalanche by two with four fewer games played than both squads.

In October, Chipman dismissed the notion that he'd sell or relocate the team.

"Because it happened once is it a concern it could happen again because you're the smallest market? I'd say, 'Not on our watch,'" he said.

The original Jets left Winnipeg to become the Coyotes in 1996.

Relocation and expansion have been hot topics in NHL circles lately. Last fall, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said some of the challenges the league faced in Atlanta could now be overcome. Then, in January, Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith sent a letter to the NHL formally requesting expansion to Salt Lake City.

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