By Zachary Baru
The MassMutual Center may have been sold out last week when the Falcons lost to Providence, but attendance during the 2014-15 season is low, even for a small market such as Springfield.
Through 20 home games, the Falcons are averaging 3,068 fans per game, which ranks 29th of 30 franchises in the American Hockey League. The Falcons' total attendance for the season is 61,351.
The Falcons did enjoy a sellout crowd last week, when 6,784 fans braved a snow storm to see the Falcons take on the Providence Bruins. The night included a pre-game ceremony honoring Springfield's 1975 Calder Cup championship team, as well as the U.S. and Canadian anthems sung by TD Garden legend Rene Rancourt.
Averaging 3,000 fans is not enough in today's AHL, as the league now includes more large markets and sees attendances that many nights exceed 10,000 fans. Recent attendances from Hershey and Hartford were 10,243 and 10,789 consecutively. Hershey also tops the league in attendance, averaging 9,461 fans per game. Lake Erie, Chicago, Lehigh Valley and Providence make up the rest of the top 5 in league attendance, consecutively.
Although a market such as Providence tops Springfield in size, both share one important aspect of a healthy and successful hockey market - participation and passion. Western Massachusetts has many youth, high school and college hockey programs, which is key for success in any market. Couple that with the passion Western Mass. fans have had for professional hockey since 1926, and you get a great hockey market with a lot of potential. Springfield has all of this, giving reason to believe that better days are ahead for this small, but special market.
Source: American Hockey League
Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.