Woeful Walleye still draw crowds

Coach Dan Watson took over behind the bench for the Walleye this season, replacing Nick Vitucci.
Coach Dan Watson took over behind the bench for the Walleye this season, replacing Nick Vitucci.

Despite a year filled with disappointing performances and lengthy losing streaks, another large crowd is expected today at the Huntington Center for the Walleye's season finale.

More than 200,000 fans have attended Toledo's games at the downtown arena. For all five seasons of the franchise's existence, the organization has ranked among the top four in the ECHL in attendance.

Toledo (21-43-6), which plays Cincinnati at 5:15 p.m., has the worst record in the ECHL Eastern Conference but a crowd of 5,010 attended the Walleye's game Friday to push the season total to 212,198.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view images from Friday's game

There have been nine sellouts this season at the Huntington Center, which seats 7,431 fans for hockey games.

“It's unbelievable,” Walleye coach Dan Watson said. “You go to other cities and other buildings and if you have a record like ours, it's going to be a ghost town. These people support us and the players. They understand the players are working hard and they appreciate that.”

Toledo fell to 11-22-2 in games at home this season with a 3-2 overtime loss Friday to Kalamazoo. The Walleye, 10-21-4 record on the road, are 2-1-2 in their last four home games.

“The standing ovations after the wins at home recently were phenomenal,” Watson said. “We appreciate it and we know we are extremely lucky.”

The Walleye, who have suffered from injuries, retirements, and permanent call-ups to the higher level, have battled the entire season.

Only Las Vegas (19-43-8) has a worse record in the ECHL. It plays in the Western Conference where all eight teams will make the playoffs after the franchise in San Francisco ceased operations near the middle of the season.

Toledo's winning percentage going into Saturday's road game at Fort Wayne was just .341. That is lower than any team in the 16-year history of the Storm. The low point for that franchise was the 1999-2000 when it went 22-41-7 (.364.)

The worst season in the Goaldiggers' history came in that team's last season of existence. In 1985-86, they were 24-48-10 (.354).

The 1961-62 Mercurys finished with the worst season in Toledo history with a .257 winning percentage (17-50-1).

Kyle Rogers, who played in his franchise-high 275th game Friday, said roster instability has taken its toll.

“It's just been one of those seasons where nothing seemed to come together for us,” Rogers said.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.