Islanders seeing increased support
Thomas Casey appreciates the support people from his home province give to him and his teammates.
The Charlottetown native has noticed as more people attended Charlottetown Islanders hockey games this season than in any of the past 12 campaigns. The squad finished seventh overall in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League attendance, averaging 2,726 people at its 34 regular season home games.
“It’s huge, seeing the attendance is climbing each year,” Casey said before Wednesday’s practice. “We’re hearing it and we’re noticing it and we couldn't appreciate that any more. It drives the engine for us every night.”
The numbers represent an average increase of 289 people per game from the 2017-18 regular season.
Third-year Islanders defenceman Hunter Drew said those extra people make a difference.
“For us, when you can feel the energy, and you can feel the excitement, it kind of fuels us,” he said. “It just pushes us, and last year’s playoff run is a prime example of that.”
The Islanders averaged 3,115 fans for its eight home playoff games in 2018. It included three overtime victories in the semifinal against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
“Hopefully the fans can carry the momentum from last playoffs into this one,” Casey said. “The attendance was crazy last year in playoffs and it kind of gave us that extra boost.”
This season’s total attendance of 92,672 was the first time the franchise has surpassed the 90,000 mark since its first three seasons in Charlottetown when more than 100,000 people watched the games each year.
The Islanders have improved on the ice since new ownership purchased the franchise before the 2013-14 season. They have gone to back-to-back semifinals under head coach Jim Hulton and have built a team that finished fourth in the Eastern Conference this season.
Craig Foster, president of operations, said there were many factors to the increase in attendance.
“It’s been a combination of the team, Jim, the style they play and the way people have bought into the promotions we’ve ran,” he said. “It’s been a good year.”
Jason MacLean, vice-president of sales and marketing, said the organization put an increased emphasis on trying new programs and promotions this season to engage the fan base. It included one-off events like the Timbits jamboree game, school day game and P.E.I. Senators game plus regular features like winning Wednesday, Thursday student nights and cyber Saturday.
“All of those combined, it got a lot of new eyes on the product,” MacLean said.
In addition, the team has saw an increase of 30 to its season tickets to about 1,400 this year. It also has added smaller packages during the season.