This offseason, the Calgary Flames have been busy signing a number of free agents and extending the contracts of current players. But there is one major extension that still needs to be addressed: a long-term deal with the Stockton Arena and City of Stockton. This is the fourth year of a five-year deal. It would be nice to extend that for another five years, and beyond.
In my last post I mentioned some of the more successful NHL/AHL franchises throughout the league. The most common thread to these was tenure. Nashville has had only one affiliate in its history: Milwaukee. Teams like the Penguins, Capitals, and Bruins have double-digit years with their AHL city. To make my point, the Hersey Bears have played in the AHL dating back to 1938-39 season, making it the longest continuously operating member of the AHL still playing in its original city (thanks Wikipedia!). Washington has been its affiliate since the 2006 season. San Diego has had a hockey team dating back to 1966.
Ryan Pike wrote an article back in 2014 about the many places that Calgary has used for their AHL clubs. You can add Adirondack to that list for a year before moving to Stockton. That now totals 12 cities that have been associated with Flames hockey since their move from Atlanta in 1980. The longest tenure has been nine years.
Let’s hope there is not a 13th city added to this list anytime soon.
The City of Stockton heads into its 14th year of hockey. The first 10 were dedicated to the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL, with affiliations with the Oilers, Sharks, and Islanders. When the AHL expanded to the West, the four west coast teams all jumped up a league. Only Stockton changed its name: Ontario, Bakersfield, and San Diego all kept their original team names.
Side note: You still see a good number of Thunder jerseys in Stockton. I still do not know to this day why they had to change the name from the Thunder to the Heat. This hurt attendance and loyalty.
Stocktonians have supported their hockey teams in the past. They led the ECHL in attendance the first four years in the league. They were consistently in the top five until the 2013-14 season, when the team signed a deal with the New York Islanders.
Via HockeyDB, here are the attendance records for the Stockton Thunder from 2005-2015:
Since the 2013-14 season, attendance has steadily declined, including last year when Stockton finished dead last in actual attendance and second to last in average attendance. Mind you that they did have four fewer games than the other three divisions, but the other west coast teams all cleared the 4,000 average.
Via HockeyDB, here’s the attendance throughout the AHL for the 2017-18 season:
|Team||Total attendance||Total games||Average|
The point I am trying to make is that a long lasting relationship between a city and a team will help increase attendance, loyalty, and fan experience. Marketing the team and its parent club will help this, especially in the backyard of the San Jose Sharks.
You have to get people in the building and make them want to come back. You want the fanbase to associate with the Flames, not with another teams that might swoop in like Vegas, San Jose, or Seattle. Their new promotional schedule is a good start.
Having a history and knowing the team will be in Stockton for some time helps in that pursuit of a bigger fanbase, profit, and brand awareness. Now is the time for the Flames, Stockton Arena, and City of Stockton officials to ink this new deal and move all attention to the play on the ice.
Go Heat Go!