CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – The Corpus Christi IceRays completed the 2016-17 season with the designation as the North American Hockey League (NAHL) attendance leader, now for the fourth-straight season, continuing their long streak of over 3,000 fans per game at the American Bank Center while breaching two million fans over the last 19 seasons.
The IceRays have become a staple of Corpus Christi culture since its inception for the 1998-99 season, and through many changes including leagues and the transition of professional hockey to junior, the fan support has been a consistent presence. Since the inaugural season, the IceRays have averaged over 3,000 fans in 18 of their 19 seasons in Corpus Christi along with all seven junior seasons since 2010-11. In fact, the IceRays extended their streak of over 3,000 fans per game to 13 years dating back to the 2004-05 season, the first year at the American Bank Center.
In addition, the record season for the IceRays continued off the ice when the IceRays reached over two million fans in 19 years, finishing the season with 2,054,849 fans between the Memorial Coliseum and the American Bank Center. That averages to 3,420 fans per game over the organization’s history and shows the longevity hockey has had in South Texas, especially in one of the most non-conventional markets in the United States.
“Reaching two million fans is an amazing accomplishment, something we wouldn’t have dreamed of when we began in 1998,” said IceRays general manager Pat Dunn. “It doesn’t come easy. You just don’t open the doors and they come. It’s a long, grueling season with many phone calls and hand shakes. We have had a tremendous following, and we have found our niche here in the Coastal Bend.”
This season, the IceRays earned their fourth-straight league attendance title while battling through a difficult economy. While more games fell below the season average during the year, many large promotional nights continued to bring fans into the arena. Events like City/County Night (4,285), Stars & Stripes Night (5,154), Teacher Appreciation Night (4,481), and Whataburger Teen Night (4,934) all brought in over 4,000 fans from various facets of the Corpus Christi community, and two games reached over 6,000 fans: the Kids’ Day Game (6,046) and Pack The House Night (6,733).
The final game of the season is the second-highest attendance in junior franchise history, sitting behind Stars & Stripes Night on Feb. 7, 2015, and the fifth-best in franchise history. In the final weekend of the season, the IceRays brought 11,667 fans into the American Bank Center to cap off a record season.
“This year has been relatively tough with the oil industry being very slow, but we definitely rolled up our sleeves and, with the help of the Type A Board, managed to come through on the last weekend of the season. I also knew that it would be hard for us to finish first again in attendance with the addition of the Shreveport Mudbugs. They were in the lead up to the last weekend, but with the generosity of our fans we managed to slip by them by bring in over 11,000 fans over the 2 games with a large group of them from SkillsUSA Texas.”
The top-three teams in NAHL attendance came from the South Division: Corpus Christi (3,028), Shreveport (2,850) and Lone Star (2,454). In addition, Amarillo (2,039) and Odessa (1,848) helped secure the sixth and seventh spots, making five of the top-seven teams in attendance from the same division. Johnstown (2,219) and Fairbanks (2,914) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
The IceRays begin the 2017 Robertson Cup Playoffs on Friday, Apr. 14 at 7:11 p.m. from George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum to begin a best-of-five series. The IceRays will host two playoff games on Wednesday, Apr. 19 and, if necessary, Thursday, Apr. 20 at 7:05 p.m. from the American Bank Center. Tickets will go on sale this Thursday at 12:00 p.m. CDT, and fans can call 361-814-PUCK with questions. In addition, stay connected with the IceRays on Facebook (/CorpusChristiIceRays), Twitter (@goicerays), YouTube (IceRays TV), Instagram (CorpusChristiIceRays), Snapchat (@goicerays), and Periscope (@goicerays).