The ECHL had a strong opening weekend at the box office, as the 17 games on the schedule attracted an average of 6,433 fans, an increase of 7.9 percent over last season’s opening weekend, and the first time in at least a decade that opening weekend attendance exceeded 6,000 fans per game.
Fourteen of the ECHL’s 22 teams held their home opener over the weekend, with eight of those clubs posting an increase from last season’s opening game, highlighted by Wheeling, which saw a 62.3 percent increase over last season’s opener with 3,782 on Friday against Elmira. Bakersfield also saw a large increase over last season with 6,490 on Friday against Colorado for a 43.9 percent increase over its opening game last season.
Fort Wayne, which led the ECHL last season with 7,583 per game, had the largest crowd of opening weekend with 9,676 for its opener against Toledo on Saturday.
Ontario, which was second in the league last season after leading the ECHL in the previous three seasons, welcomed 8.953 fans on Saturday, the team’s third-largest opening crowd in their six ECHL seasons.
Utah had its largest opening crowd since joining the ECHL on Friday as 7,835 fans were at Maverik Center for the Grizzlies’ 4-2 win against Idaho.
Cincinnati, which has improved its attendance in each of the last six seasons, had an increase of 400 fans over last season as the Cyclones welcomed 5,731 on Saturday against Wheeling.
Reading had its largest season-opening crowd since 2008-09 on Saturday as 6,079 fans were in attendance to see the 2013 Kelly Cup championship banner raised to the rafters at Santander Arena.
Stockton posted a 20.4 percent increase over last season with 6,786 on Saturday against Colorado as the Thunder celebrated their 2013 Western Conference championship.
Gwinnett and Las Vegas also saw increases over last season as the Gladiators had 5,640 on Friday against Greenville and the Wranglers welcomed 5,809 fans on Saturday against Utah.
The Orlando Solar Bears, who were third in the league with 6,668 fans per game last season, had 8,849 fans on Saturday for their fourth-largest crowd in team history.
Evansville, which finished seventh in the ECHL in attendance in its first season in the league in 2012-13, posted another strong opening crowd with 8,776 on Saturday, marking the second straight season the IceMen have had over 8,700 for their opener.
Florida exceeded 6,000 fans for its opener on Friday marking the second consecutive season, and the seventh time in the last eight years, that the Everblades have surpassed that mark for their home opener.