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Minor League Hockey And Albany

Courtesy Albany Devils

I just checked out the latest attendance figures in the AHL and I noticed the Albany Devils are last in the league in attendance.

They’re only averaging 2,818 fans per game.  That’s over 600 less than the 2nd worst team – Abbotsford.

Why isn’t anyone watching minor league hockey here in the Capital Region?


The answer is quite simple.  I don’t think it works – at least not now.

Let me be clear about this – I want minor league hockey to succeed.  I love the ability to go to sporting events here in the Capital Region.  But I’m just a realist.

For whatever reason, fans are very apathetic around here in general.  I go to games, do you?

We had a listener call my show yesterday and started off by saying he didn’t go to the games.  He then added the only time he hears about the Albany Devils is when the media talks bad about them.  He also said he doesn’t know when they play.  He doesn’t know when the play?  Really?  This isn’t 1986.  You can find the Devils’ schedule on the internet or in the newspaper.  Heck, we even broadcast the AHL club’s road games.  Last time I checked, I’m not his social calendar planner.It’s hard to get excited about players you have no connection to. Fans can’t identify with the players every year: #10 on the Devils today will probably be different guy next year.  It’s not like that in the pros.  If fans can’t relate to the players, it’s harder to care about them.

Courtesy Albany Devils

If the minor league team loses, does it really matter in the big scheme of things? A loss to Rochester on a Tuesday night in February doesn’t mean much the minute I leave the arena.  Whereas a Giants loss to the Cowboys could be devastating for days.

Affiliation of the team. If fans don’t have a real connection to the professional team, the minor league team will be of little interest as well.

Perhaps fans just have a sour taste in their mouths about the previous Albany AHL (River Rats) experience??? Just a thought.  The Albany River Rats were the AHL’s bottom feeders the last 7 or so years they were here.  The New Jersey Devils didn’t really seem to care about the Rats – at least that’s the perception I got from fans.   Perhaps those fans don’t want to get fooled again.

This is a pro sports town.  Most people around here follow the Giants, Jets, Patriots, Yanks and Red Sox.  These are all pretty good teams with tons of exposure.  When you’re able to enjoy sports at the highest level, it’s hard to get excited about “AAA” hockey.

Courtesy Albany Devils

Why do the ValleyCats work? Baseball is completely different from hockey.  It’s summer time so people want to be outside.  It’s affordable entertainment.  Baseball is very easy to enjoy – even if you’re not a fan.  It’s fun to be eating popcorn at a baseball game – that’s very American.

There are 1.3 million people that live within 50 miles of the Times Union Center. You mean we can’t get 5,000-8,000 fans at a hockey game?  Don’t tell me we don’t have 7,000 hockey fans in the Capital Region.

Again, I want this to work – but we are going to lose every minor league hockey team we have unless we go out and support them.  Perhaps this blog is a wake-up call.  Don’t get angry at me for writing this – be happy that I brought this fact to light.  So do something about it – go to a Devils game live.

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