Dolphins draw impressive crowds during first season
The Dolphins had an exciting playoff series with the Lambeth Lancers that ended in a game seven loss by only a one goal differential. A sold-out crowd watched as the Dolphins were determined to make a comeback and send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, the Dolphins' two goals in the third were not enough, and the Lancers took the game 4-3.
With unbelievable attendance numbers, a strong product on the ice, and great community involvement, the team was no failure in the eyes of fans, parents and management.
Director of hockey operations Bruce Schruder said the team was so successful because it was such an exciting place to watch a hockey game. “We tried to do it right this year, when you have referees and linesmen that walk into the arena and say, ‘I can't believe how many fans you have in the stands,' I truly believe it's the fans that create the buzz in the arena every night.”
The Dolphins dominated the attendance statistics from game one; by the end of the season Dorchester averaged 713 fans for games at the Flight Exec Centre, their home arena.
The next best team for attendance is Blenheim, who averaged 437 fans during the regular season. Take the Dolphins and put them in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (Jr. B Hockey) with teams like the London Nationals, St. Thomas Stars and Lambton Shores Predators, and Dorchester would finish third in attendance for the regular season.
Being their first year in the league definitely helped generate a following in the Dorchester community. Schruder accepted that there may not be as much buzz surrounding the team in a year or two, but still expects a strong following.
“One pleasant surprise was all the support we had from the community — we knew it would be strong, but never in our wildest dreams (did we expect) the amount of support that we (had),” he said.
To continue building their momentum, Schruder said it's important to “get local players on the ice, while staying competitive in the standings and getting people to volunteer and get involved in the organization.”
On the ice next year, the team obviously hopes to achieve a Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League Championship. In the off-season, the organization hopes to maintain and grow the strong support from the community — something Shruder said is their numberone goal.
The word “struggle” isn't a word that was used to describe the Dolphins' season, as an expansion team in junior hockey it would be expected for an organization to have some low points. The Dolphins didn't see many low points and Schruder praised the management team for having strong previous junior hockey experience.
“They all knew what to expect for the season — some actually played for the Dolphins back in the day.” Schruder said the other part is recruiting local junior talent, “Our number-one goal was to bring back as many junior players as possible — Junior B, C and D players.”
The Dorchester Dolphins finished the regular season 28-5-4, second in the Yeck Conference. In their 18 home games the Dolphins racked in an impressive 12,844 audience members.