Tuesday, December 13, 2005

AFTER THE LOCKOUT

The NHL lockout, the bitter labor dispute that wiped out all of last season has now left the fans yearning for hockey. Particularly the Philadelphia Flyers, who are being discussed in the supermarket, in restaurants and every nook and corner of the city. The loyal fans of the team cannot wait to see them back. The NHL, which was dormant for more than 10 months, maintained its popularity in U.S. market, particularly in Philadelphia and it seems if any fans would forgive the unprecedented cancellation of an entire season, it could be only Flyers fans. After all, the Flyers have flourished here since 1967, and the lineup of hockey heroes – from Bobby Clarke to Bill Barber to Bernie Parent – is as long as the memories of demanding fans. In August, The Sporting News even named Philadelphia the nation’s top hockey city.

The Flyers in their match up with the Minnesota Wild on Saturday sold out 15 of 17 home games. An average of 19,578 fans per game had filled the 19,523-seat Wachovia Center, the fourth-highest home attendance in the NHL. And the fans who were unable to make it to the stadium watched the game on television. Otherwise, the TV ratings are never advertised but reportedly this time the TPR of the game had jumped 60 percent from the 2003-04 season. Even the commercial sales raised and several new sponsors involved with the team.

In October, the league set an attendance record for the initial month of a season by drawing an overall average of 16,820 fans per game. Last month, that figure held fixed at 16,818 per game, up from 16,244 in November 2003. The most prevailed opinion that is being considered for the increase in attendance is due to a series of rules changes that have produced more goals, the elimination of the red line, reduction in size of the goalies’ equipment and implementation of shootouts after the five-minute overtime to eliminate ties. The zero-tolerance policy has led to more power plays and, consequently, scoring is up about 30 percent from 2003-04. Philadelphia has embraced hockey being back above and beyond everybody’s expectations. The Flyers have qualified for the playoffs for 10 straight seasons, but haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1975. But there is a substantial rise in their season-ticket sales.

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