If you thought the Carolina Hurricanes had attendance issues, you should see what the Charlotte Checkers have to deal with.
The Checkers, AHL affiliate of the Hurricanes, elected to close their arena's doors to the public on Wednesday night thanks to inclement weather, which amounted to temperatures in the 20s and four inches of snow. (That sound you hear is many other hockey markets in North America laughing hysterically.)
Anyway, instead of cancelling their game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the two teams decided to move up the start of their game and play in an empty Bojangles' Coliseum. (Yes, that's the actual name of their arena. This story rules.)
So, how does a team operate when there are exactly zero fans in the stands? Well, they make due with what they've got. A skeleton crew of team staffers were called upon to help run the show and operate as if there were fans in the stands. A few members of ticket sales staff served as the ice crew, the finance guy had PA announcing duties, a corporate sales guy ran the video board, the merchandise manager operated the video camera, the COO was the DJ, and the corporate servicing specialist suited up as the mascot.
Obviously, playing in front of absolutely no one is not ideal circumstances for a sports team trying to operate as a business, but the Checkers decided to have some fun with it and, to their credit, it appears they succeeded.
They even had a Kiss Cam.
Even the players, who were expected to compete like it was business as usual, seemed to embrace the weirdness. At one point during the game, a Sound Tigers player in the penalty box danced like no one was watching ... because almost no one was.
It actually appeared to be a pretty eerie scene both inside and outside the arena during the game, as if the two teams were playing in some sort of creepy, abandoned ghost town. Hearing the natural sounds of the game going on with the absence of crowd noise in an arena that large is a little bit unsettling.
In the end, the Checkers mounted a comeback in the third period and took home a 4-3 victory in a game that players from both sides probably won't forget for quite some time.