So far, so good for the St. John’s Edge, both in the standings and in the stands.
Heading into their game tonight against the KW (Kitchener-Waterloo) Titans at Mile One Centre, the expansion Edge have a 9-5 record, second-best in the 10-team National Basketball League of Canada.
Only the defending champion London Lightning (10-5) are ahead of St. John’s in the standings.
What’s more, the Lightning are the only team that has a higher per game attendance than the Edge, who have drawn, on average, 2,836 fans through their first six home games at Mile One.
“We’re absolutely pleased and very appreciative about how fans have come out support this team,” said Trevor Murphy, the Edge’s director of operations and assistant general manager.
“And it’s not only the numbers of fans that’s makes us so happy. It’s their enthusiasm, too. It’s been tremendous and I think if you ask the players, it’s made a difference to what’s happening on the court.”
The Edge are 5-1 at Mile One, their lone loss coming Tuesday night in their first game of 2018 as they fell 111-103 to the Windsor Express. But they bounced back for a 105-103 victory in Wednesday night’s rematch.
Attendance for Tuesday was 2,963, while almost 2,300 were on hand the following night. Those are good numbers in a league that sees its teams average about 1,800 per game overall and especially good considering they were weekday contests. The NBL Canada is no different than any other pro league — its teams much prefer having games on weekends, when attendance is traditionally higher.
The Edge probably have the same prejudice when it comes to choice of days, but have shown the ability to make the most of midweek contests. In fact, four of their six home games so far have been played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Murphy agrees attendance for the games against the Express were helped by a December promotion that offered two tickets and two branded t-shirts for $3o. That translated into a lot of stocking-stuffer Christmas gifts. In fact, the ticket drive was so successful the Edge temporarily ran out of the shirts.
“A lot of those purchases were for the initial games coming back — this Tuesday and Wednesday — but there were lots of people purchasing tickets through that promotion who were getting them for games later in the season,” said Murphy. “It’s going to help us later on as well.”
Tuesday’s attendance numbers were also undoubtedly boosted by another ticket offer — students can take in games for $10 on Tuesday nights. And Murphy agrees there are still benefits to the Edge being a new team bringing a new game to town. However, he suggests the so-far healthy attendance is becoming reflective of something more than people simply being drawn to something they see as novel or unusual.
“Yes, those who have been down to the games seem to be enjoying the brand of basketball they’re seeing and while there is certainly still some newness to it, I think the product is starting to speak for itself. I think that’s translating in the (attendance) numbers, too, into people coming back for more,” he said.
As of Thursday evening, ticket sales for tonight’s and Saturday’s games against the Titans (both 7 p.m. starts) were “creeping up to 3,200, 3,300 for each night” according to Murphy.
“Plus the walk-ups have been really strong and we expect it will continue to be that way,” he added.
Walk-up can be classified as last-minute sales.
Murphy says in many games, the numbers of tickets being sold between 6 p.m. and the 7 p.m. tip-offs have far exceeded 200. He also says many sales have been made in the hour after the start of the game by some fans who have seemingly adopted a sort of “better late than never” attitude towards checking out the Edge.
Tonight’s game will be the second between the Edge and KW (2-9). The Titans prevailed 99-92 in a Dec. 13 meeting in Kitchener, Ont., a game that saw St. John’s post its lowest score to date… Point guard Ahmad Starks, who joined the Titans after Christmas, leads KW in scoring with an average of 16, 1 points per game… Carl English of the Edge continues to lead the league with a 24.5 ppg average, while teammate Charles Hinkle (22.2) is fifth … Grandy Glaze of St. John’s remains the league’s leading rebounder, averaging 10.5 boards per outing …