Usually when you’re talking about the Federal Hockey League and attendance it’s because some team was a disaster at the gate, brought in 400 fans a night and folded.
Then everyone argues back and forth about what the teams and league need to do to bring in more fans on a consistent basis.
It’s safe to say that with the exception of the Carolina Thunderbirds, who set the FHL season attendance record last year, and the years of Danbury Whalers, no FHL team has ever drawn numbers that are even close to respectable compared to other leagues.
That all may change Friday night when the Elmira Enforcers play host to the Thunderbirds for the first home game in franchise history at the renovated First Arena in Elmira, the first home hockey game since the Jackals left town in April of 2017.
The Enforcers are within striking distance of the FHL single-game attendance record with just over 24 hours until puck drop.
For those wondering, and it took a bit of research, the FHL single-game attendance record sits at 3,447 for the first game of the Williamsport Outlaws back in October 2012, who had the benefit both of being a new team in town, and the gimmick of playing every game outdoors, so that first game was two reasons for people to come watch.
In a league that’s been around for more than eight seasons, it’s sort of remarkable that this mark has stood for more than six years. But there are a couple of reasons for that, the first obviously is that most teams don’t market well enough or play in large enough towns or surrounding areas to bring in large crowds regularly, and the second, is that in the history of the league, prior to this season, there have only been five rinks that could hold more than 3,447 people. Those rinks are:
- Airmen Pond in Williamsport, PA since it set the mark
- Bonnie Castle Recreation Center in Alexandria Bay, NY, former home to the 1000 Island Privateers with a capacity of 3,500
- The Rostraver Ice Garden in Rostraver Township, PA, home to the SW PA Magic/Steel City Warriors and a capacity of 5,000
- The Cornwall Civic Complex in Cornwall, ONT, home to the Cornwall Nationals and a capacity of 5,000
- Hara Arena in Dayton, OH, home to the Dayton Demonz/Dayton Demolition and a capacity of 5,500
And each of those teams/rinks/towns had their reasons why they never came close to playing in front of a full house, or a record FHL crowd.
But with the addition of the Elmira Enforcers, who play at Elmira’s First Arena, which boasts a capacity of 3,784 people, that 2012 record of the Williamsport Outlaws may finally fall.
Myself and the other guys here at Bus League Hockey had heard that there were less than 500 tickets remaining to Friday’s home opener, so I decided to do a little digging and see how true that was, and then it dawned on me that a sellout, or near-sellout might approach the FHL single-game mark.
Well as of Wednesday night when I was not at all busy at work and decided to go to tickets dot com and count each and every available seat on the map for Friday’s game.
That count revealed that there were 574 seats available for the game against Carolina, meaning that there have been 3210 tickets sold or distributed for the game, 237 short of the record mark of 3,447.
Weirdly, almost all of those seats were in the six center ice sections, with the ends and corners almost completely wiped out. This has me thinking that many of those seats were given away as comps, and has the team hoping that they can sell the remaining, more expensive, center ice seats.
The sections with the most seats available as of Wednesday night:
- Center Ice 112: 110 available
- Center Ice 110: 97 available
- Center Ice 103: 80 available
- Center Ice 104: 71 available
- Center Ice 111: 55 available
- Center Ice 102: 38 available
Other than those center ice sections, only sections 101 and 117 had more than 10 seats left, both with 27 available.
So if you’re hoping to see the Elmira Enforcers home opener, and maybe a little bit of FHL history, you still have a chance and there are, as we see above, still quite a few good seats available for Friday night.
Another thing we’ll be keeping an eye on: Will the actual attendance in the arena Friday top 3,447, or will it just be the tickets sold/distributed that tops that mark? Because again, we’re assuming there have been quite a few comps and giveaways in hopes of getting people to come out once with hopes that they get hooked.
Regardless, to have more than 3,200 tickets in the hands of the people before your first game is one hell of an accomplishment in the FHL.