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When is a rivalry not?

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The memory is still fresh in the minds of hockey fans in upstate New York one year later.

During the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs, the Albany River Rats and Philadelphia Phantoms engaged in a dramatic 7-game series, which Philadelphia won 4-3. Little did anyone know at the time that this would actually be a portent of things to come.

Earlier this season, it was announced that the Phantoms' long-time home, the Wachovia Spectrum, formerly home to the parent Flyers of the NHL, would be demolished after the season. That left the Phantoms without a place to play for the 2009-10 season.

The Rats have played 7 of their home games the last two seasons at the Glens Falls Civic Center, which hasn't had a regular hockey tenant since the UHL's Icehawks folded a couple of years back. The idea was to give the fans in Glens Falls a return to the glory days of the 90s, when the Adirondack Red Wings engaged in the annual Northway War with the Rats.

And so, it became official earlier this week that the Phantoms will relocate to Glens Falls for the 2009-10 season. The plan is for the Phantoms & Rats to meet 12 times during the regular season, the maximum number of games teams can play against each other in their own division, I think. Throwing water on this scenario is the fact, already reported that the Brooks brothers, the Phantoms' owners, plan to move back to Pennsylvania after their 3-year lease on the Civic Center runs out. The only thing that could change those plans is if the Phantoms become the same kind of box office draw in Glens Falls that the Wings were in the 80's & 90's. And for the sake of hockey in upstate New York, they conceivably could. The Rats don't draw more than, maybe, 5,000+ to the cavernous Times-Union Center in downtown Albany. The TUC's other winter tenant, Siena College, routinely will draw anywhere from eight to ten thousand or better for a men's basketball game. The Saints are a hot ticket after 2 straight MAAC titles. Having a rival team within virtual shouting distance conceivably could cure the Rats' attendance ills but for one thing.

As college basketball has become big business in this market, so too has high school hoops. High schools don't restrict their schedules to Tuesday & Friday nights anymore. Games are played any night of the week now, and the average ticket for a high school basketball game is $3. The Rats' tickets go for $17 a head per game. In this depressed economy, the choice and the difference are obvious. In order to draw more fans, especially now that the Phantoms are in their neighborhood, if you will, the Rats may have to lower prices across the board, from tickets to team merchandise, and may convince TUC ownership to lower the already infamous concession prices. Who wants to pay nearly $4 for a cup of soda?

But what if the Phantoms go ahead with their already stated plans to leave again after the 2011-12 season? No hardcore hockey fan wants to think about it right now. The people in Glens Falls are giddy with excitement and anticipation. It's best not to tamper with their emotions now. Let reality do its work in time.
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