Griffins suit up for home playoff run
With the Detroit Red Wings out of the NHL playoffs, the Grand Rapids Griffins have the full attention of Michigan hockey fans.
And with last year’s Calder Cup championship, the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate saw a boost in attendance all season — and it’s continuing into the Calder Cup playoffs.
Last year’s Calder Cup run saw 13 home playoff games with almost 73,000 people passing through the Van Andel Arena doors. But the single-game attendance didn’t surpass 5,500 until the Calder Cup finals against the Syracuse Crunch.
This year, the Griffins have sold more than 5,400 pre-sale tickets for Wednesday’s playoff home opener against the Abbotsford Heat. That’s already more than last season’s home playoff opener against the Houston Aeros, which saw 4,683 fans in Van Andel Arena. And the single-game count is the most for a home playoff opener since the 2001 game against the Cleveland Lumberjacks, when the Griffins were still in the IHL.
The Griffins won the first two playoff games against the Heat during the weekend and could sweep the best-of-three series if they win Wednesday. Games four and five would be in Grand Rapids on Friday and Saturday.
The Griffins’ regular-season attendance was also the best since any of the team’s first four seasons, with an average of 8,220 fans filling the arena. The highest single-season average for per-game attendance came during the team’s first year, when they averaged 10,811 fans a game in 1996-97.
The team’s single-game average this year was the AHL’s second best, behind Hershey’s 9,964.