As a member of the media I have the luxury of attending all Humboldt Broncos home games, and this past week I was extremely disappointed with what I saw.
Not necessarily with the play on the ice, as the Broncos actually played pretty well, particularly on Saturday night, and won both games, but with what I saw off the ice.
The first game of the week came on Wednesday night against the two-time defending league finalist Flin Flon Bombers.
That was also the night approximately 400 residents in the city were without power.
I figured, perfect, a good team on a night when the power is out.
This should draw a nice sized crowd.
And what did I see?
A building that was much emptier than I expected, in fact it was less than a quarter full.
How does this happen?
What could residents of the city possibly be doing when they do not have any power?
Then on Saturday night, one of the Broncos’ arch rivals, the league leading Melfort Mustangs rolled into town.
Again, I thought great, Saturday night against Melfort, this should be good.
But again I was left rather disappointed.
According to the SJHL, official attendance that night was announced at 667 people.
Far short of a sellout, but admittedly their second highest announced attendance behind only a Friday night contest against those same Mustangs just a few weeks prior.
The announced attendance of 667 people totals less than 11.5 per cent of the population of the City of Humboldt.
This leaves me wondering why we are struggling to attract fans.
Let’s take Flin Flon for instance, the team that was here on Wednesday.
They have a smaller population than we do in Humboldt yet their smallest attendance is larger than our largest attendance.
Some people might argue that there is not a whole lot else to do in Flin Flon.
I cannot say with certainty that this is true, but assuming it is, what else could you possibly have had to do on a Wednesday night with no power?
Some might say it’s a culture thing, well why is it no longer in our culture to watch the Broncos here?
What changed that?
I have heard stories about that building being full for games, now we are far from it.
I have heard arguments about not having enough local players.
Well this year’s team features five players from Humboldt, so that is not an excuse anymore either.
Some argue that they just are not good enough to warrant watching them play.
I find this unfair.
Are they the best team in the league?
Well no, but they are a solid club, who is fresh off a fifth place finish in the league last year, and were knocked out in the playoffs by a Nipawin Hawks team who had the league’s second best record.
This is far from a last place club.
The Melville Millionaires have not made the playoffs since 2015, and have a smaller population than we do, yet they have averaged nearly 1,000 fans a night.
So this leaves me wondering.
What is it?
Are we just in a position where people will find any excuse not to go?
And if that is the case, why?
Or do fans just not have the same pride of having an SJHL franchise in their own city, as they once did.
Whatever it is I would really like to know.
Because frankly, I am a little disappointed to see such small crowds.
Having a Junior A franchise is something not all communities get, and is something citizens of Humboldt should be proud of.