Despite NHL lockout, minor league hockey suffers drop in attendance

Fitzgerald Cecilio – 4E Sports Reporter

Trenton, NJ, United States (4E Sports) – Instead of receiving a boost in attendance due to NHL lockout, the number of fans trooping to the East Coast Hockey League is still down.

According to Rich Lisk, president and CEO of the Trenton Titans, crowds are down 1.5 percent, even though Wells Fargo Center, home of the Philadelphia Flyers, is just 37 miles away.

Last season, Lisk said the Titans averaged 3,013 for 36 games last season, and this season they’re at 2,969 through 14 home dates in a state-of-the-art, 13-year-old arena that holds 8,100 fans for hockey.

“Some people think because there’s a lockout, we can open the doors and (people) just show up,” said Lisk. “We’re waiting to see if the lockout really is ending. That’s going to be the tell-tale sign. I think when there’s no NHL season, you might start seeing a difference.”

Lisk added that only a few minor-league teams are benefiting from the lockout. ECHL attendance is up, but just two percent and the American Hockey League crowds are down 7 percent.

However, the Flyers’ minor-league affiliates are struggling with the Titans currently in 19th place among 23 ECHL teams in terms of attendance. The Adirondack Phantoms are averaging an AHL-worst 3,413 even with Flyers young stars Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier in their lineup.

In the past, the Titans were among the league’s top draws, topping out at 7,082 per game in their debut season, but fans began staying away when the New Jersey Devils bought the franchise in September 2006 and renamed the team Trenton Devils for 2007-08.

Lisk was the Titans general manager in 2005 but left when the Devils bought the franchise. He returned last season after putting together an ownership group.

Upon Lisk’s return, the Devils were renamed the Titans in July 2011 and the new owners opted to play last season despite having just 10 weeks to put together a front office, coaching staff and roster.

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