AHL chief optimistic despite economy

December, 11, 2008
Two flights we tried to board yesterday to get home to Toronto were canceled, so your resident ESPN.com hockey writer had to spend another night in Fort Lauderdale. Guess there are worse things.

Finally, we're going home today. But first we caught up with AHL president and CEO David Andrews. After spending a few days at the NHL's Board of Governors hearing about economic doom and gloom, we wondered exactly how North America's second-best hockey league was feeling in these tough financial times.

"The AHL is down marginally in ticket sales, relative to last season," Andrews said via e-mail. "And we believe that corporate revenue and sponsorship will be fairly level. As you know, much of the 2008-2009 sponsorship revenue was generated during the past summer, and we will not know for awhile what the impact may be on marketing budgets going forward, and what impact that will have on sponsorship revenue for 09-10."

Andrews said the impact of the economic downturn has varied from team to team, market to market and region to region.

"I anticipate a challenging selling season for 09-10 sponsorship packages, but I anticipate that our ticket sales will remain solid in most markets," Andrews said. "We have a great product at an affordable price, and we are very focused on ticket sales strategies as a league."

NHL teams such as Detroit and Columbus have introduced varied and cheaper ticket initiatives in response to the downturn, and Andrews said teams in his league must also have their eye on the ball in that area.

"It is important that we as a league not allow paralysis to set in relative to our own marketing efforts," Andrews said. "There is opportunity out there, and we have to identify it and seize it."

The big thing the AHL has going for it is cheaper entertainment than the NHL. The average ticket price is in the $15 range. You can actually bring an entire family to an AHL game and not default on a mortgage payment.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer




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