I like the Gazette’s sports editor Stu Cowan. But to say I was almost physically ill reading his sob column about how bad Montreal sports fans are is to put it mildly.

The old “Montreal is a Habs-only town” is a cop out and I’m tired of it.

From Cowan’s whine-fest in the Gazette: Empty seats becoming part of Montreal sports scene — other than Habs

The Canadiens appear to be eating — or drinking — up most of Montreal’s disposable income for sports, including at the corporate level, with the exception of “events” like the Canadian Grand Prix.

Someone told me it “takes guts” to write a column like this and I couldn’t disagree more.

It takes literally zero guts to write a piece like this. It’s just another in a long line of pieces from all different areas of life (sports, culture, politics) by Montrealers whining about Montreal for the sake of whining.

Cowan has written plenty of good pieces – I’m not criticizing him, but this is not an impressive work.

Yeah, the attendance for a World Cup soccer game between two countries nobody cares about was practically in the negatives and the World Juniors didn’t do well either… but where’s the criticism of the organizers other than the occasional “gee whiz, the ticket prices seem kinda high”? The publicity of this event is so bad that it’s barely noticeable and networks like TSN and RDS are giving it less coverage than the CHL’s Memorial Cup.

This whole “Montreal is a Canadiens town” mantra is BS. The Canadiens’ management team doesn’t fall out of bed in the morning and magically get 23,271 fans/game. They work their butts off for it. Where in Cowan’s piece does he note that the sellout streak started after George Gillette bought the Habs and turned around the team’s marketing before anything else? They were very bad for many years in front of a full stadium after Gillette’s team started marketing the Habs. Before that, they were very bad in front of 20-30 per cent empty stands.

It’s not a magic formula: Market your team/sporting event properly, put it in a nice place, and people will show up. The Alouettes and Impact both have beautiful stadiums, but their marketing hasn’t been nearly up to the Habs’ standard.

Trust me, I worked in the Als’ PR/marketing department for years and the team refused to advertise online or develop an app all the way as far as 2010. It wasn’t until their new leadership took over a couple of years ago that they even hired a professional agency to develop their marketing program. Why aren’t the stands full? Because they’re 10-15 years behind and only now starting to catch up.

Why does the Rogers Cup tennis tournament set a new sellout record practically every year? Look at its marketing – during the month leading up to it and throughout, it’s practically all the city’s sports community talks about, and it goes beyond the sports world as well. When F1’s in town, we’re All-F1-All-The-Time for a week.

The Habs have earned every sellout with intelligent, forward-thinking marketing, a decent on-ice product and good management. Where is that comment in Cowan’s piece whining about the quality of Montreal sports fans.

Saputo Stadium is a fun place to watch a game, but the Impact needs to up its marketing game to fill it. (Pic from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLu7z0L7UZU)
Saputo Stadium is a fun place to watch a game, but the Impact needs to up its marketing game to fill it.
(Pic from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLu7z0L7UZU)