Attendance numbers for NHL hockey alternatives indicate Western New Yorkers missed the Buffalo Sabres during the lockout – but not as much as one might expect.
The Sabres' AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, posted a total attendance of 153,016 through 23 games, good for an average of 6,656 per game. That's well up from the 5,595 average attendance the Amerks saw in 2011-12, but the numbers are distorted somewhat by the two games the Amerks played in the First Niagara Center. An October game drew 10,936 fans, while the Amerks sold out a December game in Buffalo with 19,070 attending.
Removing the two Buffalo games, the Amerks have drawn 123,010 fans to the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, good for an average of 5,857 fans per game. That's still nearly 300 fans more per game than last season, indicating a few Buffalo fans may have make the trek east to catch professional hockey.
The Amerks have played two home games since the Sabres resumed play last weekend. A Monday afternoon game Jan. 21 drew 4,228 fans, while a Friday night game Jan. 25 drew 6,620 fans.
Modest gains have also been seen at the Buffalo region's two NCAA Division I hockey options. Niagara University in Lewiston has drawn 1,094 fans per game thus far this season. That's only 52.1 percent of the capacity of Dwyer Arena, but it's up from the 975 fans per game NU drew last season.
In addition to the absence of the Sabres, that slight boost may be attributed to the fact the Purple Eagles are nationally ranked this season and are the favorites to win the Atlantic Hockey conference crown and accompanying NCAA tournament bid. The school also did away with its women's hockey program this season, giving students and nearby fans one less option.
In Buffalo, Canisius College has drawn 826 fans per game, up from 626 fans per game last season. Canisius plays in a 1,800-seat arena on the campus of Buffalo State College. Both Niagara and Canisius rank in the bottom 10 for attendance in the NCAA.
The Sabres have sold out both home games so far this season and have only a few thousand tickets left for the entire season.Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Hockey, NHL