Hockey fans around the nation are missing out on the professional game they love. The NHL lockout is entering its third month with no end in sight. During the deadlock, a minor league club is thriving.
It's a step down from the big show but fans and players are willing to make the leap. This means more revenue for local arenas like the BMO Harris Bank Center.
RAVE Executive Director and General Manager Gordon Kaye says any hockey fan will tell you, the NHL being locked out is never a good thing. In fact, he says professional games are good for business at AHL venues, like the BMO.
However, attendance is up more than 2,000 people from last season at the downtown Rockford arena.
"I think that we've seen some increased interest, for example if you look at the hits on our website, certainly if you look at our Facebook followers, our social media followers, we've seen a spike from that standpoint. I think more importantly, not only are we getting interest, we're getting more people coming here." -says Kaye.
Employees have been able to market more this year in areas they normally wouldn't, like Freeport and Crystal Lake.
"If we're going to grow our business, we need to starting bringing more people in from some of those markets." -Kaye says.
Fans are buying more too. According to Kaye, everything purchased from the time they walk in to when they leave is up 40%. Aside from the lockout, he credits the world-class venue and its hard-working employees.
"What I can control is the experience somebody has when they come into our facility." -he says.
Amanda Baum came all the way from West Chicago for her first Ice Hogs experience. As a Blackhawks fan, it's exciting for her to see players like Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, and Jimmy Hayes get ice time. Baum's frustrated with the lockout but still committed to the sport.
"People want to see hockey, so they have to find other ways of going to games." -she says.
In some ways, younger fans like Nick Cerone prefer games at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
"It's not as much money as going to NHL games but you still get to see high level hockey." -says Cerone.
Traditionally attendance doesn't pick up until Christmas, so those numbers could keep rising.
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