Monday, September 5, 2011

Five reasons you should support your local AHL or ECHL teams

There's a lot of good reasons to support your local AHL or ECHL team - not the least of which is to get a better understanding about the depth your favorite NHL team has.

Here's five good reasons to support your local minor league hockey team:

5. Want to prove your market is worthy of an NHL team? Start by supporting an AHL or ECHL team.

If your local market can't even fill up a smaller building for a lower-level team, then how can the area hope to draw the attention of the NHL as a potential market? While part of the equation is of course what NHL team might be affiliated with those AHL/ECHL teams, and what the quality of the product (players) on the ice is, ultimately, it's about the fans. Are they coming to games? How many season ticket holders are there? AHL and ECHL teams are often the only pro hockey teams for many miles around. The growth of hockey as a game starts at the very family-friendly lower games and works its way up.

4. ECHL and AHL games are usually cheaper than NHL games - and provide just as much excitement.

NHL tickets start in most markets in the $35 range and go up from there; seats for individual games may go up to $400 or more on the glass - and that's before any kind of resale markup from ticket brokers. By comparison, AHL and ECHL games often start as cheap as $6-10 and max out in the $30-40 range. Suddenly, it becomes affordable to take a family of four to more than just one game in a season. In addition, ECHL and AHL teams usually run various promotions throughout the season, such as "family four-packs", which might include food, giveaways, seat upgrades or other perks.

3. The jerseys. Oh man, the jerseys.

The AHL usually has a couple specialty jerseys per season - military (camo), anti-cancer (pink), perhaps St. Patrick's or the holidays - and then the jerseys get signed and auctioned off. The ECHL tends to have a much wider variety - take the military and cancer benefit jerseys, and add in any combination of other reasons to break out wild jersey designs: Halloween, Valentine's, holidays, Elvis, you name it.

2. The ECHL and AHL tend to be very family-friendly.

We already discussed how much kinder the farm leagues are on the wallet. But in addition to that, the lower level leagues do all they can to draw families out to the rink: family nights, scout nights, live bands, friendly mascots, ticket packages, intermission events aimed at kids, you name it. For less than the price of taking your family out to the movies, you could go out and enjoy a hockey game instead.

1.Seeing the future stars of the NHL today - before they become famous.

The number one reason of going to watch your local ECHL or AHL teams has got to be being able to say, "I saw him when---"

Did you witness Tim Thomas (Birmingham Bulls) or Pekka Rinne's (Milwaukee Admirals) first professional shutout? Ryan Kesler (Manitoba Moose) or Corey Perry's (Cincinnati Mighty Ducks) first professional goal? Brent Seabrook's (Norfolk Admirals) first slam of an opponent into the boards?

A few select NHL players make the leap directly from their Draft into the NHL, but most spend time grinding it out in the lower leagues first - be it ECHL, AHL, CHL, OHL, you name it. And those players don't forget their roots; there's NHL-level players who still talk about particular fans they remember from their time in the minors. It's a more personal experience than you get with the NHL: much smaller barns, dedicated fan bases, lot of fun for families.


AHL & ECHL AFFILIATIONS:

NHL TEAMAHLECHL
Anaheim DucksSyracuse CrunchElmira Jackals
Boston BruinsProvidence BruinsReading Royals
Buffalo SabresRochester AmericansGwinnett Gladiators
Calgary FlamesAbbotsford HeatUtah Grizzlies
Carolina HurricanesCharlotte CheckersFlorida Everblades
Chicago BlackhawksRockford IceHogsToledo Walleye
Colorado AvalancheLake Erie MonstersAllen Americans (CHL)
Columbus Blue JacketsSpringfield FalconsChicago Express
Dallas StarsTexas StarsIdaho Steelheads
Detroit Red WingsGrand Rapid GriffonsToledo Walleye
Edmonton OilersOklahoma City BaronsStockton Thunder
Florida Panthers San Antonio RampageCincinnati Cyclones
Los Angeles KingsManchester MonarchsOntario Reign
Minnesota WildHouston AerosBakersfield Condors
Montréal CanadiensHamilton BulldogsWheeling Nailers
Nashville PredatorsMilwaukee AdmiralsCincinnati Cyclones
New Jersey DevilsAlbany DevilsKalamazoo Wings
New York IslandersBridgeport Sound Tigerscurrently none
New York RangersConnecticut WhaleGreenville Road Warriors
Ottawa SenatorsBinghamton SenatorsElmira Jackals
Philadelphia FlyersAdirondack PhantomsTrenton Titans
Phoenix CoyotesPortland PiratesGwinnett Gladiators
Pittsburgh PenguinsWilkes-Barre/Scranton PenguinsWheeling Nailers
San Jose SharksWorcester SharksStockton Thunder
St. Louis BluesPeoria RivermenAlaska Aces
Tampa Bay LightningNorfolk AdmiralsFlorida Everblades
Toronto Maple LeafsToronto MarliesReading Royals
Vancouver CanucksChicago WolvesKalamazoo Wings
Washington CapitalsHershey BearsSouth Carolina Stingrays
Winnipeg JetsSt. John's IcecapsColorado Eagles
Playing as unaffiliated for the 2011-12 season--Las Vegas Wranglers

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