In what seems to be his first interview since the return of the NHL, AHL CEO and President David Andrews finally had some things to say about the return of the higher league and how it effects his league’s attendance. And basically he’s still saying the same things. Via Lindsay Kramer at the Post-Standard, here are some of the highlights (same article was highlighted at AHL.com):
“I think that having the NHL back is critically important for everyone in hockey,” Andrews said. “We’re looking forward to business as usual. We had a good, competitive league for 76 years before this lockout, and we’ll be fine (now).”
“What you hope will happen with all of our teams is you maximize your opportunity,” Andrews said. “And I think we have.”
Prior to the AHL season, with the NHL lockout fully in our peripheral, Andrews was saying the same things. It’s important to have NHL hockey, we have a strong business model, we’ll do fine whether there’s a lockout or not. So his comments continue to be in-step with what you’d expect the league leader to say. And perhaps it’s because things aren’t entirely rosy. Thus he quickly turned the conversation towards his league’s successes on its own:
“I don’t know you can assume it’s all the lockout,” Andrews said. “We have been showing revenue through ticket growth year after year, in a difficult economy.”
With the lockout, and is mentioned by Kramer in this article, the teams in the AHL have only netted 264 paid tickets more than at this point last year. On average, through Monday, the average is 5,434. Last year, through the same number of games, the teams were averaging 5,170. So perhaps David Andrews and the league are hesitant to claim a victory on the ticket front because the change wasn’t as drastic as one anticipated. At least it was disappointing for me. And the American Hockey League continues to be a really really hard sell.
There could also be some trepidation to claiming the successes of the AHL with no NHL because the one shining example of a minor league team benefiting from major league players, continues to rank last in the league in attendance. Of course, I’m talking about the Oklahoma City Barons.
Andrews’ points are all valid. The business model of the AHL, while not flawless, is best suited for what it does best - nurturing prospects. Does this equal better attendance, likely no. But the minor league model never was built to promote NHL caliber players like the one’s we saw in Oklahoma City (advertising dollars smaller; playing markets smaller and less hockey potent in general). Let’s watch this story develop.