After weeks of rumors and anticipation for an official announcement, it was made public Monday that the Adirondack Phantoms would host the Hershey Bears in an outdoor event. The matchup will be held on Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, only four days after the Flyers play host to the New York Rangers in the 2012 NHL Winter Classic.
The Phantoms and Bears will be playing in the same venue at Citizens Bank Park. The match will feature the 11-time Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears going against a Phantoms team returning home to Philadelphia. Citizens Bank Park is located across the street from where the legendary Wachovia Spectrum once stood.
The last two years, the American Hockey League has held an outdoor event in Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y. Even though the turn out was what the AHL hoped for, neither event had any correlation with the successful NHL Winter Classic.
To show the amount the Phantoms are missed by Philadelphia fans, last year they returned home for one game played at the Wells Fargo Center. It was a regular season matchup in late January against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The attendance of the game was 18,056 screaming Flyers/Phantoms fans.
Most likely, the 18,000-plus fans would come out and support the outdoor event, as well as 9,000-10,000 Hershey Bears fans. It’s also worth noting the Bears have led the AHL in attendance for the last five consecutive seasons. More than 1.83 million Bears fans have came through the Giant Center doors since the start of the 2006-07 season. In the 2010-11 season, Hershey averaged 9,800 fans every home game.
The question remains, will this event fill 40,000-plus seats? If not, you have to imagine at least close to 30,000 filled seats.
The Bears look to rebound after being eliminated in the first round of last year’s postseason on Easter Sunday. On the other hand, for the Phantoms, it’s a mile-high improvement if they’re able to even think about the playoffs in late March.
Both the Adirondack Phantoms and the Hershey Bears will open their seasons on Friday, Oct. 7.