By Sharie Epp
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008
VICTORIA, British Columbia – Victoria Salmon Kings fans used to wait for the last minute to buy tickets, but those days are over.
Since Tuesday, when the Salmon Kings dispatched the Bakersfield Condors with a 6-5 overtime victory in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, a steady stream of fans has been lining up at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre ticket wicket.
Victoria opens the National Conference best-of-seven semifinal series at home against the Utah Grizzlies tonight at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.
“It’s really great for Victoria. It’s really exciting,” said Randy Martin, standing in line. “It’s been a long time since we had something like this happen.”
The Salmon Kings average regular season attendance has increased 14.7 per cent to 4,871 a game, and the average for the first round of playoffs was 6,052, compared with 3,234 last year. Both the Salmon Kings and their American Hockey League affiliate Manitoba Moose are at the top of their respective leagues in playoff attendance.
“The Vancouver Canucks organization is successful through and through, without the Canucks in the playoffs,” ticket sales manager Devin Mazur said. He added that season tickets sales are also up. “We’re seeing a lot more people eager to get tickets in advance.
“And the team plays off the support they get from the crowd.”
As an incentive to boost ticket sales, and help the team reach their operational goal of breaking even, team president Dave Dakers said he couldn’t have scripted a better ending to the last game. Dakers e-mailed owner Graham Lee halfway though the nail-biter to say they were going to need a staff cardiologist on site. Lee said he might bring one when he joins the fans this weekend at the Memorial Centre, which is quickly becoming the place to be in Victoria.
“Now we’re seeing people cheering and getting behind them,” Sarah Bailey said, picking up a pair of tickets for Sunday. “We’re even starting to see a few [Salmon Kings] flags around town.”
“It’s not just about the NHL anymore.”