As mentioned before, there has been a lot of ink spilled on the topic of the AHL schedule matrix and how unbalanced it is. Instead of piling on to that argument today, I wanted to take a look at the other side of the coin, which was shown to me first by "GM" at the Hershey Bears Hockey blog.
In his post last week "Defending the Schedule Matrix and an Early Look at a Potential Lineup", GM made a lot of good points about why the schedule matrix is the way it is. The foremost of them all is money, and not in a greedy "NFL owners" way but more in a "if we don't make any, we're going to have to shutdown the team" way.
The crux of the argument is that most of the money for AHL team operations comes not from merchandising or TV and radio deals, but instead from the ticket sales. Despite the devotion of many who read this blog to every movement of the team, there are an equal, if not greater, number of people in Austin who just want to watch good hockey and don't care that Sean Backman got scratched tonight in favor of Michael Neal. These are the folks that help get the building to 6,863 on those rocking nights at the CPC.
HBH's argument is as follows: On paper, which matchup is the casual fan likely to be more interested in: San Antonio or Binghamton? With no offense to the Eastern Conference, the fanbase in Texas is more likely to have an emotional connection to San Antonio, Houston or even Oklahoma City.
As proof for the argument, take a look at the attendance data for Sunday afternoon games in Chocolate Town:
Adirondack - 7,000Wilkes-Barre, separated from Hershey by just 2 hours of highway, is the top drawing matchup by almost 3,000 fans.
Binghamton - 7,500
Charlotte - 7,400
Manitoba - 8,000
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton - 10,700
GM also points to Albany and Adirondack, separated by just 56 minutes:
"One Saturday, [Albany] played Adirondack and drew 5,200 fans (2,000 more than their season average). The next Saturday they played Norfolk and drew 2,200. That is 3,000 fans less, and that makes a huge difference on revenues."Looking at the data though, the Stars ticket staff seems to do a fine job selling any matchup. This is the data for average attendance for home games against opponents Texas played three or more times. I don't deny there are inefficiencies in the data, such as Peoria playing all their games early in the season and Milwaukee playing all theirs on Fridays and Saturdays. However, it doesn't seem like the trend holds true for Texas.
|Team||Avg Att.||# Games|
Casual fans show up when the opposition is a known rival. Simple as that.What do you think? Does this argument make sense for the Stars, given the shown data? And even if it doesn't, does it matter, given that it makes sense for other teams?
And the AHL is built and survives based on the interests of the CASUAL FAN. Without them there would be many fewer teams which would affect the overall hockey landscape as a whole.
So, in the end I would love to see more competitive balance (and honestly without tearing apart every single teams matchups I can't honestly say there isn't SOME balance worked in) I also understand that in order to maintain a successful league and successful teams you have to get people in the seats.
And the best way to do that is to schedule the rivalry teams more than any other.