Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, attended the Philadelphia Flyers’ opener Thursday and held a pregame news conference to discuss anything that was on the reporters’ minds.
He was asked about the Flyers’ sagging attendance figures last year. The Flyers have also been a marquee franchise, one that some call an “Original Seven” team because they had early success and drew more fans than some of the Original Six.
Bettman said the Philadelphia Flyers’ attendance wasn’t a concern, that things run in “cycles.”
The Flyers averaged just 16,541 fans per game last season, their lowest full-season figure since 1972-73. It was 84.4 percent of the Wells Fargo Center’s capacity.
When the Flyers averaged 16,063 in 1972-73, it was 94.4% of the Spectrum’s capacity.
That means last year’s numbers were even more jaw-dropping.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) October 14, 2022
Teams ‘go through cycles’
“This has always been a terrific franchise with great fan support,” Bettman said. “And teams go through cycles. I don’t worry about the long-term connectivity of the fans to this team, particularly when you see what’s been done to the building and it’s a fun place to go.
“This team will get better, and the fans will be back in bigger numbers.”
The Flyers opened with a 5-2 win Thursday over the Devils before an enthusiastic crowd that was announced at 19,107, close to the 19,600 capacity.
Whether it was because it was the opener and whether the attendance will continue to be healthy remains to be seen.
The Flyers have won just one playoff series in 10 years, and they are coming off a 61-point season, second-worst in franchise history.
“I wouldn’t read too much into last season,” Bettman said. “Last season, for lack of a better word, was funky. COVD was there. I’m sick of COVID.”
The Flyers are in rebuilding mode under new coach John Tortorella, something most fans believe is long overdue.
“I think this is a team, particularly under Torts, that will play hard,” Bettman said. “… They’re focused on making sure this team is competitive.”
Bettman said he was “not worried about this franchise. This team always spends to the cap Ownership remains totally committed.”
He talked about the hundreds of millions that have been spent for improvements on the Wells Fargo Center. It has been made “even more fan-friendly,” Bettman said.
On Friday, the Flyers recalled Jackson Cates from the Phantoms and sent Ronnie Attard back to Lehigh Valley. RW Owen Tippett left Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury.
#NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league will not change its “lower- and upper-body” designations on injuries. Many thought the NHL would get more specific when it cozied up to sports-betting sites. #Flyers pic.twitter.com/IlvWY1jiy6
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) October 13, 2022