Auston Matthews spent the 2015-2016 season playing in the Swiss league for the Zurich Lions. The team, founded in 1930, has won the championship five times since 2000, but with Marc Crawford behind the bench and Auston Matthews on the ice, they were swept out of the playoffs in 2016 in the first round.
That early playoff exit undid a lot of the value of Matthews to the team.
ZSC released their annual report at their general assembly recently, and it shows a loss on the season of 2.325 million Swiss francs (3.12 million Canadian dollars).
ZSC set two ticket sales records on the way to that loss. They sold the most season tickets in club history (7,776), and averaged 9,818 in attendance per game.
Their personnel costs decreased from 14.6 to 13.8 million Swiss francs as well, but the revenue dropped by 2.6 million Swiss francs over the previous year because of the early playoff exit. The loss was due to a reduction in sponsorship money since they failed to reach playoff targets as well as the revenue from playing the extra games at home.
The loss is covered by the equity of the club, which also covered an even larger loss the previous year, a year in which they did make the playoff final.
It’s a truism in hockey that winning fills the seats, but in markets that cannot count on capacity crowds, even with one of the hottest young players in the world on the roster, it seems you need to win and have an exciting talent to draw the fans.
There was a lot of concern last spring over TV ratings for hockey in Canada. This year, it will be interesting to see how Matthews, Patrik Laine and Connor McDavid change that. But as ZSC showed, you need to make the playoffs and win a few once you are there to really make a young star pay off in more than just points.