FORT WAYNE – There are three of them in the elevator, three men of a certain age, headed for the 600 level of Memorial Coliseum 40 minutes or so before the drop of the puck for Game 2 of the Turner Conference finals against Missouri on Saturday night.
So you come to a lot of playoff games? a fellow rider asks.
Oh, yeah, we come to quite a few, replies the guy in the faded Tampa Bay Rays cap.
Silence for a moment, and then one of his companions looks around the nearly empty car.
Thought this thing would be packed, he says.
It was a general sentiment – if you didn’t know any better.
Komets president Michael Franke does, so he looked around a Coliseum that, again, was not packed Saturday, and he shrugged.
A team that led the CHL in attendance with 7,770 fans per game was averaging right at 5,800 in the playoffs headed into Game 2, but Franke figured there were reasons for that – more than one, actually.
Is it a concern? Not at all, he said. If you look at our dates . We had the Wednesday and Thursday of Holy Week, we had Easter Sunday, which, I couldn’t believe we had 5,000 people on Easter Sunday.
So, no, not at all. We’re very happy with the attendance.
Part of that was due to the fact the Komets drew their biggest crowd of the playoffs Saturday – 6,791.
That was more than 1,000 better than the 5,689 that showed up for Game 1 – a Friday night date that somehow drew fewer fans than the Easter Sunday date, which attracted 5,911 to Game 5 of the Rapid City series.
Of course, part of it was also due to Franke’s familiarity with his club’s playoff attendance patterns.
The thing we have to remember is, in the old UHL days or the old IHL days when you might have 16 teams make the playoffs, the first two or three rounds were always very difficult, he said. And if you go back into history, into the UHL days and the finals against Muskegon, we only drew like 6,300 the first night.
And then, no one knew this week if we were gonna play Thursday (which would have been Game 7 against Rapid City). And then, if it wasn’t Thursday, it was gonna be Friday-Saturday, and you only had two days to sell tickets.
So I think it was kind of a perfect storm that first week.