The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/22/13 at 02:27 PM ET
The Grand Rapids Griffins won't have to worry about the course of the Red Wings' last four regular season games, including tonight's tilt against Phoenix, because the Griffins clinched an AHL playoff spot over a week ago.
The Griffins will open their first playoff run in three years when they travel to Houston to kick off a best-of-five first round series against the Aeros on Friday, and the Griffins' Twitter account points us toward an article in which the Grand Rapids Business Journal's David Czurak reports that the Red Wings' AHL affiliate's excellent season--and its first under coach Jeff Blashill--has yielded huge gains in attendance and a very positive bottom line:
It was a good season for the business office, too. The Griffins finished fourth in attendance in the 30-team league by drawing roughly 290,000 to its home games at Van Andel Arena. The club averaged more than 7,600 paying customers per game, topping much larger markets such as Houston, Milwaukee and hockey-crazed Toronto in ticket sales.
“We thought that midway through the season this team could be special. They’re a very good hockey team, well coached with veteran leadership and good character in the room. In early December, the team was in first place and has been there ever since,” said Tim Gortsema, Griffins senior vice president of business operations.
“Overall, it was great and was awesome on so many different fronts. In terms of the hockey team, we’ve had a good one that has been competitive all year. So that has been first and foremost. From a ticket-sales standpoint, any of our metrics, I would say, are up,” said Gortsema. “Ticket sales are up probably 7 percent, corporate sales are up 7 or 8 percent. For the first time in the franchise’s history, we’ll do $1 million in group ticket sales, which is a phenomenal threshold to hit. This will be our third consecutive year of attendance increase and it’ll be six out of the last seven,” he added.
“There is only one other team in the American Hockey League that has a better long-term trend line than us. So of the 30 teams in the AHL, Hershey (Pa.) will have an attendance increase this year, and that will be 10 out of 10 for them. After Hershey, we would be the next highest in consistent growth pattern.”
Gortsema said Friday home games probably were the best attended, with the highly popular $1 beer and $1 hot dog promotion from 6-8 p.m. leading the turnstile charge. Saturday games, which also were loaded with promotions, came in a close second. “It’s a weekend-driven league,” he said.
The beer and hot dog promotion will continue at all home playoff games, but the price will rise to $2. Playoff tickets also will go up by $1. It’s an increase the AHL mandates because the players get paid from gate receipts during the Calder Cup run.
Czurak's article continues, and "sometimes we need to be reminded" that the Red Wings' AHL affiliate is a business, just like the parent club, and sometimes when the team chooses to leave certain players in the AHL to take leadership roles and become "overripe" prospects, it makes that decision understanding that the Griffins have to put butts in seats, too.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.