What came first, the chicken or the egg?
I’ve rolled this around time and time again. Not because I have any specific affinity for the fowl, but rather because like any other formula it can be applied over and over to like situations. What drives a player out of a slump, a timely goal which changes his mindset; or a change in mindset leading to a timely goal?
What has created the Marlies movement in Toronto? Has increased attendance lead to improved results on home ice; or has the home winning percentage lead to increased bodies in the stands? If you ask players, they’ll tell you that there’s nothing like playing in front of a full and engaged barn. When you ask the fan, they’ll say it’s easy to come out to a game when the team is on a roll.
On Saturday, Ricoh Coliseum invited it’s biggest regular season crowd through the gates and into the bowl. There were people as far as the eye could see and they were ushered in through a variety of building entrances just to accommodate the sheer volume.
Though the Marlies may not have the long standing history like that of the Americans or Bears, for the Toronto club now in their eighth season a record breaking crowd is nothing to shake a stick at.
Eight-thousand and seventeen bodies.
It appears even more immense when you write it out.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Marlies have seen their seats filled before. This isn’t the first sellout. But what makes the number 8,017 so very special is the fact that it indicates every useable space inside Ricoh Coliseum was occupied. Standing room and accessibility areas were all at capacity and I’m sure if people could have bought tickets for the bathroom stalls, they would have.
Saturday was more than just filling seats. It was evidence of a city’s passion for the sport.
Now I don’t think I could ever make it as a detective. I don’t have the blood of a ‘Grade A’ sleuth running through my veins. I may be able to dig up clues, but I always need someone else to string them together.
Here’s what I know:
- During 2009/10 the Marlies welcomed a little more than 162,000 through the doors with the team’s performance ultimately falling short of the playoffs
- In 2010/11, Toronto filled 187,741 seats over the course of the 80 game schedule and again the Marlies missed the playoffs, but this time just barely
- Under a newly shortened 76 game schedule a little more than 208,000 witnessed Toronto’s 2011/12 divisional title season
- From February onward the club saw attendance in the 5,000s seven times, three times in the 6,000s and five more times in the 7,000s with a single sellout – over which time they boasted a .675 win percentage
- In nine games during the 2012 Calder Cup playoffs eight of them featured an attendance more than 6,000 with a pair of sellouts; a run which (as you know) propelled the team to the finals
- In only 16 home dates this season the club has already invited over 114,000 in to view their Western Conference leading squad win 84.4% of their games, six of those have been sellouts – that’s more than a third of the games, folks
It’s four years of increase, both on the ice and in the stands.
The 90 year old Coliseum has found itself home to an atmosphere where away goalies are heckled and whole sections stand up to demand their compatriots help start a wave. Boos rain down from seven thousand referees when they dispute a call on the ice and a thunderous cheer erupts when a favourable goal is scored. In one word, Ricoh is ‘Alive.’
It’s crazy to think that historically the Marlies attendance has picked up in the back half of the season. With nine home dates in February, it’s very possible tickets could become a rare commodity.
These are the things that crossed my mind as I sat with more than 8,000 others today to watch the Marlies defeat Rockford 5-2. It was the team’s third straight sellout crowd. It was truly incredible.
So please, play detective. Do tell me, which do you think came first the chicken or the egg?