So last night didn't turn out so well for the Texas Stars on the ice as they dropped a tough 3-0 loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs and fell behind in their Western Conference series three games to two.
But in the stands, Texas Stars fans are putting their counterparts in Hamilton to shame.
Though eight home playoff games each, Stars fans have filled the Cedar Park Center with an average attendance of 4,873 people per game - that number of course really helped by this past weekend's attendance at all three games: 4,535 for game three on Wednesday and then 6,215 for Friday night's game four and 5,020 for last night's game five.
Compare that to the city of Hamilton - or as Jim Basille calls it: "Southern Ontario" - where in eight playoff games the Bulldogs have only averaged 3,142 fans. Games one and two at Copps Coliseum drew 2,977 and 2,897 fans respectively.
And we won't even get into the fact that Copps can seat up to 17,383 for a hockey game while CPC only seats 6,863 hockey fans.
Those numbers are kinda surprising right? I mean, one city is where hockey was born and is a religion, the other city is better known to Canadians for being that place where "Austin City Limits" is filmed. Hamilton is the hockey hotbed that would have no problems supporting an NHL franchise and just this past week Hamilton's daily newspaper was all too happy to point out that football is king in Austin and that hockey is a minor footnote.
So how would the Hamilton Spectator explain these playoff numbers I wonder?
And lest anyone think that this is just a recent trend, it isn't. This past regular season, the Texas Stars outdrew the Bulldogs by almost a thousand fans nightly with an average attendance of 5,355 over 40 Stars home games compared to the Bulldogs 4,374.
Oh and Houston and San Antonio also outdrew the Bulldogs this season. And last season for that matter. It's all right there in black and white on the AHL's official web site.
Look, I know about the stigma attached to minor-pro teams in all sports, I've seen it first hand with the Edmonton Road Runners who were a one season replacement for Edmonton fans while the NHL
screwed over their fans went on a bit of a hiatus in the 04-05 season. Attendance numbers were good as they averaged 8,845 fans per game, but compare that to the numbers the Oilers bring in where they sell out Rexall almost every game and it's easy to conclude that hockey fans - even the most die hard ones - just will not come out with the same enthusiasm for an AHL game than they will the NHL.
But still, Hamilton is the city that has been trying for literally decades to get an NHL team. It's been a dream of theirs for years and it's so bad they even made a television drama based on the idea that Hamilton had an NHL team (and just like in real life, no one cared to watch as it only lasted two seasons in Canada). Has anyone in Hamilton that has ever bitched and moaned that Gary Bettman and the NHL keeps over looking them as a possible NHL destination ever thought that this whole AHL thing is an audition, a litmus test of sorts? How can the NHL really justify moving a pro team there when they barely support the minor-pro team they have already? At least the folks in Winnipeg with the smaller population base support their AHL franchise better.
I am sure dear reader that you are wondering what is my point in all of this. I do actually have one surprisingly enough and no I'm not about to suggest that Texas should be in line for a second NHL team, nor am I suggesting that Hamilton or "Southern Ontario" should never get an NHL franchise.
Maybe I am posting this as a frustrated Canadian who as you may have figured out already doesn't buy into this "hockey doesn't belong in the southern States" garbage that most of my fellow Canadians are ready to spit out. Maybe I am posting this as a proud Stars fan who is very happy to see AHL hockey do well once again in the state of Texas.
All I know is, after this past week and this past season hockey fans in the city of Austin and area deserve a pat on the back for coming out and supporting the team this year and making it a great first season for the Texas Stars. Hockey fans in Hamilton and that area? I suppose staying at home and dreaming that impossible dream of an NHL team in your backyard is what you'll keep doing since it's clear you won't support the AHL like fans in Texas do.
How's that for a hockey cliche?