Monday, May 26, 2014

Falcons playoff attendance less than satisfactory

By Zachary Baru

It is every Springfield sports fan's favorite subject: attendance.  As the Springfield Falcons experienced an early exit from the American Hockey League's Calder Cup playoffs, the unwanted subject arises once again.

Three home playoff games, three prime weekend dates, one attractive opponent.  As the Falcons faced an opponent with the best opportunity of drawing fans, three Eastern Conference quarterfinal games at the MassMutual Center averaged 3,486 fans per game.

Ticket sales can be tricky during the playoffs for minor league teams.  Unlike the regular season, many of the promotions do not occur, causing teams to depend on strong walk-up sales.

The Falcons opponent, the Providence Bruins, are always a top draw in Springfield due to their affiliation with the Boston Bruins.  Facing the Bruins for three nights, all on weekends, was a golden opportunity for high attendance figures.  That was not the case, as the highest attendance in Springfield came during the deciding game 5 when 4,427 fans saw the Bruins eliminate the Falcons from the playoffs with a 6-3 win.

Games 2 and 3 in Springfield drew 2,753 and 3,278 respectively.  The Falcons can do better, and they must.  These are the the words we hate hearing, but are becoming all too common as the American Hockey League landscape continues to grow.  For a top development league that includes large markets such as Chicago, Cleveland, and Charlotte - all within the top 25 U.S media markets - Springfield finds itself a small market in a league with big-market presence.  Nielsen ranks the Springfield-Holyoke televison market 114th.  Close rival Hartford is ranked 30th.

So can Springfield survive in today's AHL?  Of course it can.  But as we hear so often, that determination can only be made by the support the franchise receives.  As always, Bruce Landon continues his support, and Charlie and Sarah Pompea have been doing whatever it takes to keep this franchise in Springfield.  Here's to hoping when next season comes, big crowds come along with it.

Source: Nielsen

Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at