I’m a self-admitted stat geek. I was looking at the AHL average attendance, and got pretty sucked into thinking about the stats. See, I’d glanced at it before, always thinking how COOL it is that the Charlotte Checkers, as a first year team, are eighth in the league attendance wise (averaging 6,129 fans per game). That alone is pretty impressive. I’m not sure that Carolina Panthers games would have had that many people at them last season if not for the away-teams fans visiting our fine city.
As a stat geek, I wanted to look past the numbers… numbers that showed Hershey at the top of the charts, averaging 9,648 people a game, down to Albany, in last place with an abysmal 2,995 fans per game, both of which are in our own division. I was curious what their rinks were like… as of yet, I haven’t had the privilege of visiting any other AHL barns for a game, but a roadtrip for next season is definitely in the works.
What became more impressive to me than Hershey’s high numbers in average attendance was the fact they only have 10,500 seats, which means they fill 92 percent of their seats every night. Albany, on the other hand, has a maximum capacity of 14,236 at the Times Union center, which means they fill only 21 percent of their seats. To bring some Checkers content to this discussion, the hockey capacity of Time Warner Cable Arena is listed at 14,100 seats, so on average less than half of our seats are filled, but as all Checkers fans know, weekend games tip the scales at over 12,000 people per game, so the average isn’t an accurate representation of all games.
One of the most impressive stats I discovered was the fact that the two of the worst teams in the East (record wise, anyway) are Syracuse and Adirondack. Both of these teams have pretty old barns (For example, the War Center at Oncenter in Syracuse seats 6,230 people, and was built in 1951, predating our own Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte by about five years. The Glen Falls Civic Center is a 30+ year old arena, and the smallest in the Eastern conference of the AHL, with a seating capacity of only 4,086.), but the fans fill them up night after night to cheer on a losing team. As a long-time Charlottean, that amazes and impresses me. Throw in the fact that there is turmoil between Syracuse and their NHL affiliate, the Annaheim Ducks, and I’m double-y impressed that the fans keep coming. Remember when George Shinn made disparaging remarks against Charlotte and how Hornets attendance dropped to barely a few thousand fans a game in their last season? Instead of Crunch fans getting pissed at the parent club, they’ve stood behind the local team, which is a great statement. Syracuse is a town with fans that deserve a great team, it’s unfortunate they haven’t had good partnerships with their NHL clubs in recent years.
Charlotte is full of fair-weather fans. We don’t go to Carolina Panthers games when the team is losing, and instead give our season tickets away to fans of the other team. We don’t pay attention to the Bobcats unless they are going to make the playoffs. But in these two towns in New York are able to fill their arenas nearly to capacity night after night. Sure, the Crunch and Phantoms may only have an average attendance of 5,045 and 3,563 respectively, but they are also filling over 80 percent of their seats all the time. That to me is impressive! Granted, especially in Glen Falls, I have to assume there is less entertainment competition whereas in Charlotte, on any given night of the week there is a professional sporting event, possibly a Broadway show, a concert, Symphony performance, street festival or the like going on at one of dozens of venues in town. But even with all of that, and one of the largest arenas in the eastern conference. We rank fourth in capacity, behind Connecticut (who play in the former home of the Hurricanes/Whalers in Hartford), Worcester and Albany, the Checkers find a way to pack the arena on weekends, and seem to be getting more and more fans in the seats on weeknights as well. It’s a pretty great feeling to be a part of as other Charlotteans discover the gem we have in the Checkers!
Charlotte has two more games in this four game roadie before returning home for a game on Tuesday against Adirondak. Tonight, the Checkers face the Crunch and I’d guess it will be a nearly sold-out crowd. I’m told that only 800 tickets remain for tomorrow’s game against the Penguins. While I admire these teams enthusiastic fanbases, I’m hoping both are disapointed by a loss in front of a big crowd, because the Checkers need these four points badly!