NHL Lockout, Day 67: AHL Seeing Solid Attendance Gains, But Not A Huge Jump
The AHL has seen a 12% increase in attendance "during the first five weeks of its season -- a good number, but not strong enough to declare the NHL lockout has been a boon" for the league, according to Christopher Botta of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. AHL Commissioner David Andrews said, "The numbers are close to where we thought they would be. We're seeing a good jump where our franchises are close to NHL cities. We're up slightly almost across the board just about everywhere else." Botta reports average attendance among the league's 30 teams compared to last season "is up, to 5,291 from 4,720, but some of the numbers from this season are a bit skewed." The Bridgeport Sound Tigers, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, "gave away free tickets to a pair of games on Nov. 3-4 as a civic gesture." The "near-capacity crowds" lifted the Sound Tigers' average "to 7,650, third-best in the league and up from 5,461 at the same point a year ago." Some gates "suggest that hockey has been missed in a few NHL markets" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/19 issue). The AP's John Kekis wrote the "atmosphere in the AHL has never been better." Syracuse Crunch Owner Howard Dolgon, whose franchise prior to the season switched NHL affiliations from the Ducks to the Lightning, said, "We're way ahead in everything -- tickets, sponsorship. I don't think that's all related to the lockout. I think, for us, a part of that is the excitement over the change in affiliations and the quality of the teams." He added, "I certainly think that there's more of an emphasis on the American Hockey League now across the board." Crunch coach Jon Cooper "marveled at the attention." Cooper: "When we went to Canada, TSN, the equivalent of ESPN, has got AHL highlights going all the time. That's something that probably wouldn't happen had the NHL been going on" (AP, 11/16).