Knights place third in fan support

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:30 AM ET

The London Knights, No. 1 in the Canadian Hockey League on the ice during the regular season, have to settle for third at the turnstiles. The Knights drew a franchise record 307,296 fans to 34 home games, for an average of 9,038 per game. That topped the 284,439 (8,366 average) the team drew last season, their second in the John Labatt Centre.

The Ottawa 67's led the OHL with a league-record 314,542 fans, for an average of 9,251.

The Ottawa Civic Centre can hold 9,862 for hockey, while capacity at the JLC is 9,090.

But what put the 67's over the Knights was the CHL-record 20,081 fans Ottawa drew for a game Dec. 30 at the Corel Centre, home of the NHL's Senators.

The previous OHL season attendance record was 309,761, set by the 67's in 2001-02.

The OHL drew a league-record 2.69 millions fans this season. Sixteen of its 20 teams showed an increase at the gate.

The league was up 149,000 fans over last season. The OHL has broken its previous attendance mark nine years in a row.

The Western league's Calgary Hitmen topped the country with a CHL-record 362,227, for an average of 10,062. The Hitmen play in the 18,000-seat Pengrowth Saddledome, home of the NHL's Flames, and sold out their final two games.

The previous CHL attendance record was 315,763, set by the Western league's Portland Winter Hawks in 1995-96.

Major junior hockey, which saw an increase in attendance right across the country this year, may have benefited from the NHL lockout.

"We've done a good job of keeping our game positive," said OHL commissioner David Branch, who also is CHL president.

"The London Knights' (record-setting season), Sidney Crosby and the world junior championship (in Grand Forks, N.D., where Canada won gold for the first time in eight years) all have been positive news stories."


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