May 26th, 2024

Increased Tigers attendance felt on the ice

By JAMES TUBB on April 18, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER Medicine Hat Tigers fans cheer on the home team during Game 2 at Co-op Place of their first-round series of the 2024 WHL playoffs against the Red Deer Rebels.

As expectations rose for the Medicine Hat Tigers this season, fans matched and exceeded their own totals.

The Tigers faithful pushed past previous years’ numbers and showed their support for the local club at a new rate.

A total of 106,604 fans were in attendance at Co-op Place for the Tigers 34 home games this season, with an average of 3,346 fans in attendance each game. The attendance numbers were released in the City of Medicine Hat’s public services committee meeting on Monday.

The per-game average surpassed and almost doubled up the previous year’s average of 2,651 fans per night, a 26 per cent increase from the 2022-23 season.

Last season’s ticket totals were bloated in the regular season with two sold-out games when the Tigers hosted and beat soon-to-be-drafted Connor Bedard and the Regina Pats, and a near sell-out for a game with a carry-over 50/50 lottery.

Their largest attended game this season saw 4,840 fans in attendance for Game 68 on March 23, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

It’s been a rise of fans that forward Shane Smith has noticed in his career and one he says means a lot to the team.

“I remember my first couple of games as a Tiger we’re getting 2,500 or 3,000 fans and now we’re up towards four or five (thousand) here at the end of the year and it was awesome,” Smith said. “It’s so fun to play in front of a full building and the atmosphere, it’s great to see.

“It’s great to see that there’s more of a buzz around the community now, it’s a lot more fun to play with a lot of fans of the building.”

Those attendance numbers continued into the postseason with the Tigers hosting three playoff games in their first-round series against the Red Deer Rebels.

A total of 13,960 fans showed up to cheer on the orange and black, with an average of 4,653 fans in attendance for their three playoff games. Game 5, the final contest of the series, was their highest attended game of the year with 5,263 fans at Co-op Place.

Associate coach Joe Frazer was on the Tigers when they played at The Arena and remembers those crowds both as a player and a coach. He’s thankful for the fan attendance and attention they’ve received this season and he hopes they can give them a longer season to cheer for.

“There’s a buzz in the city and the atmosphere they provided, it was great to see,” Frazer said. “It felt like the old building a couple of times this year. It’s unfortunate how the season ended but I think there is a buzz in the city and now it’s up to us to make sure we provide that entertainment and take the next step in winning.

“Just keep that buzz going but I just want to thank fans for all their support, I hope they have a great summer and we’ll hopefully see them next season.”

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