The fickle way North Bay supports its sports teams did not disappear when the struggling Centennials left town.
In fact, the poor support for North Bay’s OHL hockey club has put the Gateway city in last place in attendance in the entire league, much like the final days of the North Bay Centennials franchise.
So much for the term “seventh man," in 2016-17.
The North Bay Battalion drew 88,433 fans to 34 home games in its 2016-17 Ontario Hockey League season that ended Sunday without a playoff berth, representing an average of 2,601 per game.
The website hockeydb.com which tracks Ontario Hockey League attendance has North Bay’s average dead last in the league, with the Peterborough Petes second last at 2,666 per game in 2016-17.
See the entire league attendance statistics HERE
Total attendance was down 21.8 percent from 113,117, or 3,327 per game, last season.
In 2013-14, the Troops’ first campaign in North Bay after 15 years in Brampton, the club drew 114,437, an average of 3,366 per game. The franchise record for attendance was set in 2014-15 at 117,195, or 3,447 a game.
The largest crowd this season was 3,279 for a 3-2 overtime loss to the Sudbury Wolves on Dec. 29. The second-biggest was 3,080 for the schedule opener Sept. 23 against the Niagara IceDogs, who won 3-1, and the third-largest, at 3,019, saw a 4-0 victory over Sudbury on March 16.
With the Battalion playing its fourth year in the Gateway of the North, season tickets were down after the expiration of the three-year period for which fans were asked to sign up as the franchise relocated.
“We recognize that there’s work to be done in growing attendance back to previous levels,” said Battalion owner Scott Abbott in a press release Monday.
“The team endured a difficult season on the ice and missed the playoffs in North Bay for the first time, but the issues influencing attendance go far beyond that and include a difficult economic climate of which we’re well aware.”
Club president Mike Griffin said, “We thank and appreciate the terrific fans and sponsors who continue to support us.”
Attendance in the final season at Brampton was 74,496, an average of 2,191 a game, while the record attendance at Brampton was 92,962, or 2,734 a game, in 2005-06.
Other indications that showed a lack of support for the struggling team was the fact that the North Bay Battalion Fan Club was only able to coordinate one fan bus all season long. That was for the Friday night game in Sudbury.
“Just as our numbers have declined in the seats so did the interest in the fan club,” admitted Fan Club President Nicolas Forsyth.
The Battalion season ended abruptly on Sunday afternoon when they were eliminated from the playoffs in a 5-4 loss to the Kingston Frontenacs finishing with a 24-38-4-2 record.