Phantoms Schedule: Observations And Solutions For 2016 And Beyond

all star logo

Today the Phantoms revealed their home-preseason schedule, to go along with the regular season schedule which was released by the AHL last week for this 2016-2017 All Star Season in the Lehigh Valley.

I noticed a couple of things, and thought of some issues, and put it together with some information that der EishockeyZuschauer told me on SpaceBook–here are some observations, potential problems, and potential solutions I’ve been thinking about:

  1. A western conference team will be in town for two days for home preseason games.
  2. But it’s still the same team two days in a row, which may impact ticket sales.  
  3. We play two teams (Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) a disproportionate number of times during the regular season.  

A Pre-Season Solution

It’s great to see a Western Conference team–Charlotte–in town for the preseason.  However, by having the same exact preseason game two nights in a row, I think many fans might decide on going to just one of the two games rather than both.  That will hurt attendance for what could be uninspired hockey to begin with.

dE was telling me about a German hockey tradition of a pre-season tournament.  Three teams with games over two days, a corporate sponsor, a trophy at the end, and the ability to generate a bunch of interest and excitement over preseason sloppy hockey games involving the same teams.  If a team like Charlotte is willing to travel all the way up here for two days, then involve another team and make a whole deal out of it.  You could come up with some kind of revenue-sharing system, and fill the arena for two whole days!  It would still be preseason hockey, with ECHL players in and out and whatnot in order to evaluate talent and keep legs fresh–but it could work for interest, ticket sales, concession sales, merchandise sales, downtown promotion and a variety of other benefits.

This could be something unique and special to the Allentown Hockey franchise which could be promoted on a national scale each year incorporating interest from the visiting teams’ fan bases and affiliates, much the same way that hosing the All Star Game this season will allow for some extra promotion on a regional and national scale which we don’t normally get.


A Regular Season Solution

The shear number of games pitting the in-state AHL rivals in WB-S, Hershey, and Allentown works against the rivalry that they attempt to create:  With so many repeats of the same games I no longer get too excited to see them, as I know there’ll be another coming right up.  Also, why travel to Wilkes-Barre or Hershey when you get to see that same match-up dozens of times at the PPL Center right here in town?

An in-season tournament, as above, is the answer.  With that many games involving the three teams anyway, why not bunch a few of them together and create a two-day tournament?  The sites could rotate hosting, and folks would travel to the away games to see something different of the same-old match-ups.  It would intensify the rivalry rather than water it down.  And for example you might get to see the Hershey/WBS game in addition to the games involving the Phantoms.

They could pick a unique weekend to hold it–early season Columbus Day Tournament as an opening weekend if the calendar falls correctly?  Veteran’s Day Memorial Tournament?  Thanksgiving Weekend Tournament?  Hold it over the holidays when kids are home from college and many folks take vacation days, in order to book a week day in the schedule?  Martin Luther King weekend tournament?  There are many options, and again, revenue-sharing could take place and any loss of home games by the visiting teams could be made up the following year(s) when the other teams have an opportunity to host.  Or, they could just pick a weekend unique to the tournament when competition from vacations and youth sports and other things might not be as much.

This might not be something unique to Allentown–but would be a Pennsylvania event which would raise the awareness of hockey throughout the state while adding to currently fading rivalries.


Just some thoughts.  And thanks again to der EishockeyZuschauer for the original idea.


See you at the arena, soon enough…


Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Phantoms Hockey

4 replies

  1. I would say the original credit for the idea has to go German soccer clubs, such as Bayern Munich and its annual Audi Cup, from whom the German ice hockey clubs have obviously borrowed … If I worked for the Phantoms, the first people I would call would be Mack Trucks, Inc. because their corporate masters are Volvo, the Swedish car manufacturers. The Swedes, collectively as a nation, are big into hockey and, once upon a one time, it was Volvo that owned the company that made the “Jofa” brand hockey equipment — the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, himself, wore a Jofa helmet throughout his entire professional career. And the concept of these corporate-sponsored pre-season tournaments involving trophies is certainly nothing new to Europeans (read, Volvo executives).

    Three teams. Each team plays the other two participants once. Three points for a win in regulation and two points for victory via overtime or shootout. Goal-differential is the be-all, end-all tiebreaker. Can be in and out of PPL Center in all of two days — not like the place is overbooked or anything, but still.

    Don’t be afraid to invite Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (who are rumored to be actual owners of PPL Center) and Hershey Bears to the same party — even though those two teams are not based so far away, some of those two teams’ fans might actually want to book a hotel room downtown nevertheless.

  2. Any kind of “in-season” tournament would probably have to be independent of the regular American Hockey League season. This is because the AHL only awards a maximum of two points per victory and, as a result, it would be a lot harder for any given tournament to have a clear-cut winner based on points from such a short tournament. If matters were settled on goal-differential the majority of the time then the competition, itself, wouldn’t be so much fun.

    Part of what makes the college holiday tournaments special is the fact that they ARE separate from the regular NCAA season. Breaks up the monotony. Plus, lifting a holiday tournament trophy can go a long, long way towards “fixing” what might otherwise be an awful season.

    My grandest vision for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the PPL Center in Allentown would involve replicating the famed Spengler Cup from Switzerland. The AHL’s Rochester Americans have actually traveled overseas to participate in that famous holiday tournament that always concludes on New Year’s Eve Day twice (in 1996 and 2013). So, then, why couldn’t the Phantoms have their own holiday tournament and bring European teams here?

    • This is too bad. I don’t see why they couldn’t count the games one way for the AHL season, and on a side ledger for the tournament standings. Or, they could just go straight to tie breaks to settle it–they point being more to change the presentation of the games and mix things up rather than make too big a deal of the trophy itself–just as you and I are the only ones really concerned with the IronRail, it seems.

      Without extended benches, the ultimate problem might be just getting all the games in. Non-league games in the middle of the season might be untenable–but you never know given the Rochester instance you cite.

  3. As far as the large number of games versus both the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (rumored to be the real owners of PPL Center) and the Hershey Bears are concerned, things certainly would be more interesting if all these intra-state match-ups counted towards some kind of “William Penn Cup” competition involving all three of Pennsylvania’s AHL clubs — something pretty much along the lines of the coveted IronRail Trophy that the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and that evil AAA farm club of the dreaded New York Yankees that goes by the name of Trolley Frogs or whatever.

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