Trickle down effect varied

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Will jilted Flames fans pour their devotion (and hard-earned cash) into other local teams if the NHL season is officially, once-and-for-all, finally sent to the showers?

While it's an enticing proposition, there's no guarantee Flames devotees will come running, cheque books in hand, if NHL commissioner Gary Bettman turns out the lights tomorrow as expected.

Although the WHL's Hitmen are already reaping the benefits from puck-starved hockey fans, the NLL's Roughnecks are hopeful they'll receive an assist while the CFL's Stampeders are waiting until the NHL season is officially cancelled before addressing the topic.

"I think our crowds have gone up due to there not being any NHL hockey, for sure," said Calgary Hitmen GM/head coach Kelly Kisio. "Our crowds are up about 30%, roughly."

The NHL lockout has junior hockey fans spinning the Saddledome turnstiles at a record pace. The club, celebrating its 10th WHL season, has averaged more than 9,200 fans per home game.

While the Hitmen have benefitted, Roughnecks owner Brad Banister claims his team has yet to profit from the lockout like other squads.

"It's sure helping in the other buildings, although I don't know if it's helping us yet," said Banister, whose franchise has been averaging close to 10,500 fans through the first three home games at the Saddledome.

The Riggers host Anaheim Friday, the club's first home tilt after tomorrow's expected official announcement the NHL season is cancelled.

"Calgary's one of the last cities in denial while I think other cities have accepted the fact," suggested Banister, whose club played the Rock in Toronto on Saturday. "We'll see on Friday or the all-star game but so far it hasn't helped us a whole bunch.

"I'm a little bit surprised but I guess lacrosse is lacrosse and hockey's hockey."

Stampeders president Ted Hellard declined comment until the NHL makes an official announcement about the fate of this season.


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