Friday, April 27, 2012

Springfield Falcons Finish 27th in Attendance

By Zach Baru

The Springfield Falcons finished the 2011-2012 American Hockey League season with an average home attendance of 3,659, placing them 27th out of 30 franchises in the league. If this sounds disappointing, one must first take into consideration Springfield's small media market, in a league with teams from large cities such as Chicago, Toronto and Houston.

The Springfield-headquartered AHL no longer is the northeast-based league we once new.  The league now has multiple large markets, and ended the season with an average attendance of 5,638.  While the league's largest market, Chicago, finished 2nd with 7,909, the small market Hershey Bears topped the league with an impressive 9,872 fans per game.

Springfield's attendance this season could certainly have been worse, but as the AHL continues to grow, and the associated expenses remain at their current levels, an increase in attendance still remains a need for our club.  Playing in a league one level below the NHL comes with a price to pay, and less than 4,000 fans a game should not be the norm.

Although Hartford is a bigger media market, the Whale finished 23rd in attendance with 4,573.  Just behind, the Worcester Sharks finished 24th, with 4,402.  Another regional team, Albany, was last in the league with 3,435 fans per game.

There is definitely room for improvement for Springfield.  Fans need to embrace the franchise as they have in the past, and appreciate the top caliber of play we have in our city.  Western Mass. fans should take advantage of the intimacy the MassMutual Center gives fans to see such competitive hockey, right in our own backyard.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Big Box Office Weekend for Armor and Falcons

By Zach Baru

As if Friday’s record attendance at the Springfield Armor of 6,061 fans was not enough, the Springfield Falcons responded with a sell-out crowd of 6,789 on Saturday.  Springfield may be a small market, but their fans did not make it seem like one over the weekend.

This is encouraging news for our local teams, as support is coming at a much needed time, with the playoffs right around the corner.  Friday was the Armor’s last home game, but they have clinched a playoff spot, and are currently one game behind Dakota for first place in the NBA Development League’s East Conference.

Even more interesting than Dakota actually being in the D-League’s East Conference, is that the Falcons are 4 points out of the playoffs, currently eleventh in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.  The Falcons have two more home games on the schedule, giving them an opportunity to pack more crowds into the MassMutual Center.

Last year in the 2010-2011 season, the final home game for the Armor drew 4,489 fans, showing a modest increase in support this season for the first place team.  As the Falcons look to their home finale April 14, they hope to have a similar attendance to last year’s crowd of 5,723. 

To all of the doubters out there that say Western Mass. does not support their teams, last weekend was an example of the potential this market has.  Our teams do not need 6,000-plus crowds every night to survive, but rather consistently decent attendance to show the community’s support for their teams.  For this to be achieved, the fans and the teams must work together to do their part.  The fan’s part is pretty clear, but good marketing and affordable ticket prices need to continue from our teams to ensure bodies are put in the seats. 

There is absolutely no reason why Springfield sports have to be associated with attendance problems.  How often have you glanced down in an article about local sports to check the attendance before the score?   Unfortunately, this has been the world we have been use to for quite some time.  It does not, and should not have to be like this.  The region needs to realize that we have the potential to support our teams, and last weekend was a great example that local fans truly can come out in numbers.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at