Four New England AHL teams — Springfield, Hartford, Portland and Worcester — are in the bottom 10 of AHL attendance and drawing fewer than 4,000 per game. Worcester will be one of the five AHL moving west to form an all-California division, and there’s talk Portland could end up being moved down the road as well. It’s not a surprise that the Springfield Falcons are drawing poorly, with only 3,075 fans per game, as the team has never been a solid draw at MassMutual Center.
But it’s a little surprising that the Hartford Wolf Pack isn’t drawing better; after all, it’s a former NHL market with a solid hockey tradition. Part of the issue may be team parent New York Rangers (things related to New York City tend not to play well in New England), and part of the reason may be the team’s reliance on walk-up sales. From Masslive.com:
In Hartford, the Wolf Pack’s director of business development, Adam Goldberg, said the team’s schedule, with more early-season home games than last year, and the weather have hurt their attendance so far.
“Hartford has one of the highest walkups in the league, which is a good thing, because there’s business coming in, but on the other hand, people are making their decisions later about the entertainment that they would go to,” Goldberg said….
“Hartford is a large commuter city, so a lot of people work downtown and go out to the suburbs when they’re done, so there’s not as much activity downtown during the night,” Goldberg said. “So I think, not safety per se, but I think one of our challenges is getting people to stay downtown once they’re done with work on a Friday night, to come back.”
We are in the midst of a tremendous transition in minor-league hockey: operations and proximity are coming under increased scrutiny. A five-team California division