AHL President David Andrews Discusses League's Uptick During NHL Lockout
While the NHL lockout is "the AHL's gain, the AHL also needs the NHL's support, and continues to serve as a developmental league," according to Jesse Spector of SPORTING NEWS. Thus, AHL President David Andrews is in "a unique position as far as the NHL lockout is concerned." Asked if the NHL lockout is providing a boost for the AHL, Andrews replied, "I think it is, especially in terms of exposure for the league from a media perspective, and with a national television opportunity in Canada every weekend, and taking a lot of those games back to the U.S. and to Europe. ... Our attendance is up -- we've had the strongest start we've had, ever, in the first weekend and second weekend. Normally, this time of the year is a slower period, from the time we open up until about U.S. Thanksgiving, then it starts to take off. We're seeing heightened interest, for sure, in a lot of markets -- particularly those that are in NHL general markets, like Chicago." He added, "When the NHL comes back, we'll compete for hockey fans, and we compete with the NHL on television. One thing I believe is true is that when you see our attendance go up during a lockout, it's not NHL season-ticket holders or NHL corporate ticket holders, it's people who ordinarily watch NHL games on TV and don't have the opportunity, so they want to see it live. You hope to make an impression on those folks, provide them with a great experience, and get them to come back." Asked if labor negotiations represent the biggest difference between his job and that of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Andrews replied, "I have to do it, too. I just don't have to do it in as big a way. We have a collective bargaining agreement with our players association that we have to negotiate every three or four years" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 10/26).
WORKING WITH AFFILIATES: In Connecticut, Michael Fomabaio noted the influx of would-be NHLers that have landed in the AHL is "an opportunity for AHL teams, some of whom learned their lessons during the season-long NHL lockout of 2004-05." Bridgeport Sound Tigers President Howard Saffan said, "We're marketing extensively on Long Island through the Islanders, as well as the Port Jeff Ferry. We've created packages specifically for Islanders fans, Islanders' season ticket-holders." He added, "The Islanders' staff has been great, PR and marketing, getting our message out across the Sound." Fomabaio noted AHL teams were "averaging 5,638 fans" per game through the first 14 days of the season, while the "same 14 days" last season drew 5,558 fans per game (CONNECTICUT POST, 10/28).