Giants enjoy crowd boost as fans return in their droves

Steve Thornton, head of hockey for the Belfast Giants, has said that the organisation has enjoyed a “strong bounceback” in terms of attendances this season after two years plagued by the Covid pandemic.

Belfast Giants’ David Goodwin during last Saturday night’s Elite Ice Hockey League game at the SSE Arena in Belfast

Average attendances have been 4,026 with many games well over 4,000 this season.

And it is expected that the Challenge Cup final which will be held at the SSE Arena on March 16 will be a sell-out.

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Thornton explained: “We have seen a strong bounceback in terms of attendances this season, which demonstrated that fans truly missed hockey in Belfast.

“Our average attendance numbers are sitting at just over 4,000 but this is deflated somewhat by lower attendances during December/January as a result of Omnicron and additional restrictions.

“Many games have seen audiences significantly higher than 4,000.”

Thornton added: “Our webcast sales have also increased significantly this season, likely a result of fans needing to self-isolate or shield at certain junctures throughout the pandemic.

“Combined, our arena and webcast audiences are the strongest we have seen for some time.”

“We are normally a Saturday night game night team but Covid reschedule pressures have meant that shifted a bit this season and we’ve worked hard to grow the fanbase on Fridays, Sundays an on midweek games.

“We’re expecting a sell out for the Challenge Cup final on Wednesday 16 March.”

Thornton concluded: “We’ve also been encouraged to see lots of new fans coming to games for the first time this season.

“Continuing to grow and expand the game and our audiences is a very important part of our strategy.”

Elsewhere in the league Sheffield Steelers have been leading the way this season, and are on a huge run of 22,891 fans through the doors in just three games.

Manchester Storm have been on a roll of their own since the turn of the year, welcoming 14,089 fans across eight games – an average of 1,761 over two months for the organisation that averaged 1,365 in 2019/20.