By Zachary Baru
If you haven't already, you can go ahead and call Amherst a hockey town.
Through three home games this season, UMass ranks third in NCAA Division I Hockey attendance, averaging 7,386 fans per game at the Mullins Center. The season began on October 12, when UMass set a school record for the highest opening night hockey attendance. 7,123 fans saw UMass beat Connecticut 4-1 on a Friday night in Amherst.
So what is UMass's secret? Although the promotions like "Operation 8K" are good, and the venue is a great place to watch hockey, what it really comes down to is the students. The campus comes out by the thousands to support their hockey team. When classes are in session, the atmosphere in the Mullins Center is electric, making for an amazing fan experience.
You can say that in UMass' case, the games sell themselves. This is hard for teams to replicate, and shows what the right combination of good promotions and great fan support can accomplish. The Mullins Center holds 8,389, and this season the hockey team is averaging 88.2% capacity, ahead of popular programs like Michigan and Boston College.
With three consecutive games of attendances over 7,000, the Minutemen are still early in the season, and will have more big games to play. With the combination of student support, and that of the Western Mass. fans, UMass may be having a record setting season for attendance.
Zachary Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at email@example.com. He also blogs for Sports Business Boston.