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 firstname.lastname@example.org.