Many Prince George hockey fans have taken their share of criticism for not supporting the two junior teams.
No one can hide the facts. Attendance figures for the Cougars (regular season average of just under 3,000) and the Spruce Kings (average of less than 800) are well below numbers from past years.
However, with playoff fever in the air, and the Cougars’ first round sweep of Kamloops, a number of fans have returned to the rink (4,504 in game three and 5,238 for game four versus the Blazers).
Undoubtedly, these figures will increase in the conference semi-finals against Everett. P.G. fans finally have something to be excited about and they are now prepared to support their local team by purchasing a ticket.
A question circulating in the Prince George Hockey World is: Where were the bandwagon jumpers all season?
It is unfair to take a “slap shot” at these “rejuvenated” fans. One must look at the big picture. It took seven years for the Cougars to finally win a playoff series. The team arrived in the city in 1994 and still no banner. Local fans have patience, especially with frequent last place finishes or quick exits from the post season.
The support for this team was terrific in the late 90s with capacity crowds of close to 6,000. Prince George isn’t different than any other hockey cities’ expectations – give us a winner and you will have my support.
For the most part, I believe fans receive a great dollar value while watching a WHL game, win or lose. However, many spectators are on a limited budget and need to be careful on how they spend their entertainment money. If the on-ice product is consistently not up to standard, then fans have every right to stay away, and they shouldn’t be chastised for making this decision.
Meanwhile, the Spruce Kings saga has been more disturbing. Since entering the BCHL, the Kings performance has been mediocre. They have accomplished little, on or off the ice, and the fans are less than excited. In fact, this was supposed to be “the year” for the Kings, yet they lost out in the first round to Salmon Arm, a team that did not win a game in round two.
Although more than 1,200 watched game six against the Silverbacks, fans stayed away in droves. Once again, false hope dampened enthusiasm.
Even though the Kings and Cougars are two different teams, they are playing in a city that is thirsty for a contender, and a franchise that will compete for a championship.
Hockey in May is like a foreign language in Prince George. Nonetheless, if the Cougars can provide a spark in April, maybe the excitement can shift to the Spruce Kings when they host the Royal Bank Cup.
If the crowds remain strong in the spring, how about a salute to the fans for attending rather than questioning their whereabouts during the winter?
Against Kamloops, I picked P.G., but not in a sweep. In round two, logic says Everett should win a short series (since there was a 37 point difference between the teams in the regular season standings) but I’ll pick the Silvertips in seven games. There isn’t much to choose in goaltending or goal scoring, but Everett has one big advantage. Yes, there is no substitute for playoff experience.
Hartley Miller is the sports director for radio stations 94X and the Wolf@97fm. He also writes for Opinion250.