I must say, you disappoint me, Prince Albert; you seldom show up, in body or in spirit.
I’m talking about Prince Albert Raiders hockey games.
Your attendance record at such games is marginally acceptable at best, and depressing at worst.
Consider the following.
It’s been four months since the Raiders hosted their most attended game.
It was the Western Hockey League team’s home opener on Sept. 22, 2017 against the Moose Jaw Warriors: 2,514 people attended that game, according to the listed attendance number on the team’s website.
The Raiders skated to a 3-0 loss to the Warriors at the City-owned Art Hauser Centre.
The City of Prince Albert’s website lists the seating capacity for the stadium at 2,591 seats, plus 708 standing tickets.
I’m told the team only sells standing tickets if it has reached capacity for seats; when I try to select tickets for purchase on the team’s website, I can’t find a standing ticket option.
I don’t know if that Sept. 22 number is an actual head count of people at the game, or if it’s a count of total ticket sales with the assumption that a ticket holder will attend the game, including season ticket holders.
My guess is it’s the latter.
I would dispute the 2,514 number: The Art Hauser Centre was nowhere near 77 seats shy of a sell-out that evening. At best, it looked close to three-quarters full, maybe 70 to 75 per cent of capacity. The game was far from the 97 per cent of capacity suggested by the team’s attendance number listed on its website.
And while I have little patience for fudged numbers, I detest waning community support for local clubs and teams.
Case in point, this city’s mediocre attendance record at Raiders’ home games.
The team’s lowest attended game was Oct. 17, 2017 against the Vancouver Giants: 1,727 peopled attended the 5-4 overtime Raiders’ loss, according to the same data source.
It was an entertaining, dramatic, fast-paced game.
The Raiders’ top offensive skaters led their comeback push, while the speedy son of a former NHL great (Cliff Ronning’s son, Ty) gave the Giants the pep they needed for the win.
It was, frankly, good hockey.
To be blunt, Prince Albert, show up, support the Raiders.
The team has emerged from its offensive slump in late 2016 relatively unscathed, trending upwards through two trade cycles and one off-season.
The Raiders seldom take a shift, let alone a game, off.
The team’s comprised of decent, hard-working, committed young men.
I’ve yet to detect a smidge of arrogance, excessive egoism or selfishness among the team’s players.
The current crop of Raiders tend to care about giving back to the community; I’ve twice seen one defenceman refereeing minor hockey games; and after their WHL games, win or loss, the players make sure to sign autographs for kids eagerly waiting outside of their locker room, sometimes with smiles as big as the waiting kids.
And don’t give me the “well they don’t win very much” argument.
The Raiders are two wins away from being back to .500 and tied for a wildcard playoff spot.
They compete with and have taken down some of the league’s top teams.
Consider a recent Raiders regulation-time win against the WHL’s top-ranked team, the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The Raiders beat the Warriors 4-3 after playing a sound neutral-zone and defensive-zone system, where they boxed out Moose Jaw’s top offensive players. It was fantastic to see how effective and entertaining good defence can be. The Raiders managed to muster offence, too.
The club is a community-owned team, Prince Albert.
If you want it in your community, helping to drive the hockey scene, then support it.
You may not get the game-by-game gratification of a team win every single time, but you will enjoy the thrill and the drama of tight, well-played hockey.
And – believe it or not – you’ll be giving something back to the team beyond the money you paid for your tickets: A loud, energetic, intimate atmosphere that just might give the Raiders an extra boost of momentum.
Over the last 13 months, the team has done its part in putting together a good, competitive roster.
The puck is now on your stick, Prince Albert.
What will you do?