By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
While the Amerks continue their quest to bring the Calder Cup back to Rochester for the first time in nearly 30 years, their fans have already made history.
For the first time since renovation of Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial – and perhaps for the first time in the 66-year history of the franchise – a playoff game has sold out four days in advance.
All 10,662 tickets for Game 3 of the Calder Cup Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night in downtown Rochester are gone. The last remaining seats were plucked up late Wednesday afternoon.
“There’s no better feeling for me than telling the coaching staff and the players that we’re going to have a full house,” said Rob Minter, vice president of business operations for the Amerks.
“This is a true testament of our fan base, and what’s been accumulating. The on-ice product has been really exciting but the buy-in from the community has been special.”
The Amerks lead the best-of-seven series 1-0 after thumping the Hershey Bears 5-1 on Tuesday at the Giant Center. Game 2 is in Hershey on Thursday (7 p.m., televised on MSG), then the series comes to Rochester for Games 3 and 4.
Game 4 on Monday (a 6:05 p.m. faceoff on Memorial Day) is trending toward a sellout as well. The Ticketmaster seating chart shows scattered tickets in the lower and upper bowls along the sides, with a good number still available in the 200 level of the Broad Street bowl.
“When we were putting the schedule together with the holiday weekend, I was thinking, ‘This could really be great, or I could be the guy that played twice on a holiday weekend and we drew 5,000 people,’ ” Minter said.
The Amerks sold out the clinching Game 3 of the North Division finals sweep of Toronto on May 17, drawing 10,662. The sellout, however, was not achieved in advance but instead through pre-game walkup sales. The same was true for sellouts during last year’s playoff run.
In 1996, Games 1 and 2 of the Calder Cup finals didn’t sell out at all in the smaller War Memorial, when stage seating brought capacity to around 7,315. Games 6 and 7 did sell out the day before each contest.
Following renovation (which was completed in 1998), there was one announced playoff sellout of 11,200 in the 2000 Calder Cup finals against Hartford, but it didn’t come in advance. No game in the 1999 run to the finals sold out.
Playoff fever has definitely hit. Then again, it has been 17 years since the Amerks played in the conference finals, and 23 since they played in the Cup finals. Fans should be hungry.
It was just one victory
While the Amerks built a 4-0 lead in the first 27 minutes and never were really threatened in Game 1, coach Seth Appert said it was just one game.
It’s the same message he delivered to his team after the Amerks defeated Toronto 4-3 in Game 1 of the North Division finals.
“Toronto was great in Game 2 and Hershey’s going to be great in Game 2, so our game is going to have to go up, competitiveness and how we manage the puck,” Appert said.
“We’re never going to go away from our identity, so 80 percent of who we are is going to stay the same. But at this of the year, when you play the same team over and over, you have to be willing and able to adjust. It will be important that we get better tomorrow.”