The Wings vice president of marketing, Robert Mattina, said 10 per cent of the team’s season ticket base is Canadian.
“It has increased over the last four or five years. We made a concerted effort to develop more marketing and promotion through the Canadian triangle,” he said. “We made a concentrated effort to expand.”
That triangle includes Windsor, Sarnia and London. The combined population of the trio of cities is approximately 638,000 — slightly less than the 703,000 people that call Detroit home.
“It’s strictly that we have a whole market that is hockey fans. It just made great sense to market where the fans are,” Mattina said. “If you look at London, it’s halfway between Detroit and Toronto. We have lower priced tickets, we have a great product and when you include traffic it’s easier to come to Detroit than it is to Toronto.”
There may be the odd Montreal Canadiens or Chicago Blackhawks fan living in Windsor, but for the most part, the city that is a five-minute bus ride from Joe Louis Arena is split between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.
For the first time in 15 seasons, the two teams are in the same conference. NHL realignment has moved the Wings and Leafs into the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.
The two teams haven’t been in the same division since the 1997-1998.
The Leafs and Wings split a pre-season home-and-home series on the weekend.
“The energy in this building seemed not quite like a playoff game, but close to a playoff game,” Mattina said of a Friday night meeting the Wings won at the Joe.
The Leafs won Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
“It’s fantastic for the fan base in both organizations,” Mattina said of the realignment.
The move means the Wings will play the Chicago Blackhawks fewer times but it’s a sacrifice Detroit is happy to make.
“You lose one, but you gain three Original Six teams. When you look at the big picture, it really benefits us,” Mattina said.
Mattina also said the move will also benefit TV viewers and the team’s ratings.
“People don’t’ have to stay up until one o’clock in the morning to watch the games anymore. It makes a difference for our TV ratings,” he said. “We anticipate our TV ratings to increase."