ALBANY — Don’t blame greedy sports owners, backing up the moving trucks in the middle of the night.
Don’t blame the arena or Albany County, which offered every amenity and more that clubs asked for, from a state-of-the-art locker room and workout facilities to proximity to parent clubs.
And don’t blame the product. The American Hockey League is arguably the second-best league in the world, one fans can access for a fraction of the cost of the NHL.
No, blame for the Albany Devils likely departing the Capital Region next fall — the AHL Board of Governors will vote on the team relocating to Binghamton on Sunday — and the AHL era closing on our area for good, rests with all of us.
There were good ones, hardcores, like the ones who stuck through all five overtimes the night Albany River Rats goalie Michael Leighton made 98 saves in a loss, believed to be a record.
The problem? There were maybe 500 people in the house.
And so ends nearly four decades of AHL hockey in the region, tracing back to the Adirondack Red Wings in Glens Falls, through the Capital District islanders in Troy and the Albany River Rats and Devils in Albany.
Don’t look for Albany County to pursue another team, county executive Dan McCoy told Ken Schott. Besides, why would the league return to a market that consistently ranks near or at the bottom of attendance, far below smaller communities?
Why did the River Rats and later Devils fail to draw at Times Union Center?
People blamed parking.
Sorry, I never paid for parking on the street, and never had a problem. Ever. Besides, $5 for parking in a lot is more than fair.
People blamed ticket prices, which were extremely reasonable given the level of play.
A legitimate excuse: People blamed competition for the sports dollar. Hockey fans have two Division I hockey programs in town, not to mention the high schools. There are two Division I basketball programs. There are a slew of Division II and III teams. And don’t slight the heavy slate of high schools.
In other words: There are plenty of places for a sports fan to go to see a game besides hockey at Times Union Center.
We are also within an easy drive to see the Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens, not to mention other major market teams. Some people would rather spend more and travel to see the top-tier leagues.
And some would just rather spend nothing at all and sit home. Hey, “Shawshank Redemption” is on tonight. Great movie!
Pro tip: “Shawshank” is always on.
The fact the Albany-Troy-Schenectady market cannot/will not support a Double A baseball team or AHL franchise is troubling, counter-intuitive . . . and proven. Some may say fans are discerning; others can say we are extremely tight with a buck. I fall into the latter camp.
There are knowledgeable sports fans in this area. They know the sports, and are passionate. You feel for the fans who supported, say, the Albany-Colonie Yankees or River Rats/Devils, accompanied by acres of empty seats.
But the majority of sports fans have spoken. They do not care. Some will come back with “If only . . .” responses, but the cause/effect is clear.
Too many empty seats means filled moving vans.
This day has been coming for years.
And that is on us.
Reach Executive Sports Editor Mark McGuire at 395-3105, [email protected] or @MJMcGuire on Twitter.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: