No, it wasn't a misprint, the Carolina Monarchs did nearly pack the Greensboro Coliseum to the rafters -- 16,244 -- for a recent American Hockey League encounter. All season the expansion team has been doing fairly well at the gate, averaging just under 4,400 fans. Why the explosion?
Portland was in town and, as Pirates owner Tom Ebright explained, "It was 'Fill The Building Night' and they darn near did it. It was a really festive crowd and they had a heck of a game to watch."
Translation: Portland won, 3-2, in overtime.
One of the intents of the Monarchs' promotion was to eclipse the AHL record for attendance, established in 1989, when Adirondack and Newmarket drew 17,446 to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Greensboro Coliseum, host of the ACC basketball tournament many times, added another deck a couple of years ago, increasing its capacity to 23,000.
More on attendance
Awhile back, the word in hockey was that attendance was off at all levels and clubs were losing big. Then along comes a weekend night like the one during which four AHL teams drew an average of 12,230 and sellouts were registered in two smaller arenas.
The fact is, minor-league teams flourish on Fridays and Saturdays -- eight AHL games the other night averaged 6,634 fans -- but then flounder during the week.
* A drawback of serving as a farm team for an NHL club was realized in Hershey with the team on a hot streak (5-0-1). The parent Philadelphia Flyers sent their backup goalie, Dominic Roussel, down with instructions to give him lots of work. Roussel went 0-3 in as many starts.
* No sooner did goalie Jim Hrivnak, who had some fine seasons as a Baltimore Skipjack (54-43-11 from 1989 to 1992), lay a 2-1 loss on the Bandits for Carolina here when his 25-game contract expired and he hired on with the Las Vegas Thunder of the International Hockey League.
* Young goalie Eric Fichaud, called up to the New York Islanders from Worcester, had a tale of woe to relate to his new NHL mates. The IceCats were playing Fredericton and Fichaud, just 20, stopped all but one of 22 shots sent his way. He was a 1-0 loser, however, as Fredericton's Patrick Labrecque turned away 52 shots. The kid probably has forgotten already because he won his first game in the big leagues Tuesday, the Islanders beating Buffalo, 5-4.
Canada wins again
The recent World Junior Hockey Championships gave a pretty good indication of where a good percentage of the talent for the NHL and AHL will be coming from in the near future.
Despite the surge in interest and playing ability in college and all levels of amateur hockey here over the past several years, Team USA only grabbed fifth place. Canada won for the fourth straight time, followed by Sweden, Russia and the Czech Republic. True, these were all-star teams competing, but it often takes an all-star-type player to make it to the top.
The Springfield Falcons (28-17-5), runaway leaders of the Northern Division who will play host to the Bandits tonight, have lost back-to-back games just twice in their first 50 games. The game is being picked up by Home Team Sports and will be shown on a delayed basis at 11:35 p.m. . . . Through the first 70 percent of the AHL season, road teams carried a woeful .320 win percentage. It's not a whole lot better in the NHL: .370. . . . Brothers Peter and Chris Ferraro of Binghamton, whom the Bandits play tomorrow, accounted for 11 points in the Rangers' 7-2 win over Rochester recently. Peter had a goal and five assists, Chris one and four. . . . There are as many Russians on the Bandits' squad as there are Americans, three. Completing the 20-man roster are 13 Canadians and a lad from the Czech Republic.