The Abbotsford Heat drew capacity crowds of 7

Heat attendance on a hot streak

For two electric evenings, the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre was the epicentre of pro hockey in Canada.



The Abbotsford Heat’s struggles to fill the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre have been well-documented, but for two electric evenings, the building was the epicentre of pro hockey in Canada.

A pair of games against an Oklahoma City Barons squad loaded with up-and-coming NHL stars drew capacity crowds of 7,046 on both Friday and Saturday, with hockey-starved fans flocking from far and wide to get their fix during the NHL lockout.

“You’re going through withdrawal, right?” explained Earl Petkau, who flew in from Edmonton to watch the Oilers’ AHL affiliate. “All the young guns are here (in Abbotsford), so it was a perfect opportunity.”

Without a doubt, the NHL lockout has been a boon to the Heat.

The weekend games marked the first time in franchise history that they’ve sold out against an opponent other than the Vancouver Canucks’ affiliate (the Manitoba Moose in 2009/10 and 2010/11, and the Chicago Wolves the past two seasons).

It’s also just the second time the Heat have sold out back-to-back games – the AESC was filled to capacity for both nights of a Jan. 12-13, 2010 doubleheader vs. the Moose.

Dave Galarneau and Terry Devries, who drove from Edmonton for the weekend games, used the words “painful” and “terrible” to describe an NHL-less winter.

“The exciting thing about this was, it’s the closest AHL outpost for thousands of miles,” Devries noted. “Abbotsford’s a great town anyway, so this was an easy decision. Win, lose or draw, it was worth it.”

On the social media site Twitter, the team’s hashtag #AHLHeat was trending worldwide during the Heat’s 4-0 win on Friday. Saturday’s game – a 2-1 overtime triumph for the Barons – was televised coast-to-coast on Sportsnet.

“We’ve benefitted a lot,” Heat president Ryan Walter said Saturday, reflecting on the lockout. “It’s given us that momentum, put us over the top with some fans.

“We expose them to our product, and people come back. We’re very thankful about that.”

The City of Abbotsford paid the Heat a total of $3.58 million to cover financial shortfalls during their first three seasons in town – a condition of the 10-year supply fee agreement to play out of the AESC, which guarantees the team an annual break-even budget of $5.7 million.

The Heat were 29th out of 30 AHL teams in attendance last season, drawing 3,545 fans per game according to league stats. They’re currently averaging 5,109, good for 16th overall, though it’s worth noting that four of their eight home games have been high-profile dates with the Wolves and the Barons.

Now, the Heat’s challenge is to fashion the momentum from those outliers into a foundation for long-term health.

“It gives us a chance to build our business,” Walter said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fraser Health has added two more Langley schools to its list of COVID-19 exposures. (Joti Grewal/Langley Advance Times)
Two more Langley schools added to COVID-19 exposure list

Families of Langley Secondary and Dorothy Peacock Elementary were notified, district says

John Horgan meets with candidates Pam Alexis and Preet Rai and local citizens in Abbotsford on Wednesday afternoon. (Submitted)
NDP Leader John Horgan campaigns in Abbotsford with local candidates

Horgan meets with hopefuls Pam Alexis and Preet Rai on Wednesday afternoon

Swimco announced recently it is shutting all of its stores in Canada, including in Langley. (Swimco website)
Canadian-owned swimsuit chain bankrupt

Swimco had been in creditor protection for several months

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
COVID case confirmed at Fort Langley Seniors Community

One of five new cases reported by Fraser health Authority

John Horgan brought the NDP campaign to Langley on Wednesday, Oct. 21, just three days before the B.C. vote (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Horgan brings NDP campaign to Langley

Predicts gains, says people are looking at the party ‘differently’ after three years

Mary Foote (right) took part in the Gutsy Walk in August 2020 at the age of 104. She was joined by son in-law Clarence and daughter Edith Olson. (family photo)
Langley woman turns 105 on Oct. 25

In August, Mary Foote took part in the Gutsy Walk to battle Crohn’s and Colitis

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

Most Read