The Shreveport Mudbugs of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) opened their 2019-20 campaign two weeks ago by hosting the expansion New Mexico Ice Wolves, which in and of itself isn't unique. The arena in which the Mudbugs play is located right next to the infamous Independence Bowl Stadium. When I say right next to each other, I don't mean they are on the same street. I mean, Fulton Reed could fire his 5th slap shot from the top of Independence Stadium and hit the top of Hirsch Coliseum. They share a parking lot. For the Mudbugs' opener both buildings were being put to good use as Independence Stadium was playing host to one of the Louisiana's biggest high school football events of the year, "Battle on the Border 9."
Battle on the Border in the state of Louisiana is one of the premier football events of the year. Between Friday and Saturday it played host to five different games, involving the best high school teams from Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, and Georgia. There are guys on all 10 teams who, at the very least will be playing on Saturdays and perhaps even Sundays in the future. It was truly a talent showcase for high school football in the south. Yet, one can't help but notice what was going on less than half a football field away.
Friday night, the Mudbugs had 3,127 fans steadily flowing into their barn. Some of them showing up an hour and a half before puck drop. It wasn't just casual hockey fans either. These people had Mudbugs jerseys, shirts, blankets, hats, etc. These were die-hard Mudbugs. The majority of these fans were not going to the ticket window to buy tickets. They were walking through a door labeled "Season Ticket Holders Entrance" where they were greeted by name. The reason I'm bringing this up at all is because when you think of sports and the American South, you think football. This weekend the hot ticket, was for the Mudbugs. 3,127 on Friday night and 2,476 on Saturday night for attendance. (Shreveport Times/ Roy Lang III).
Ironically enough, at the same time as the Mudbugs Saturday night game, two of the high school teams playing next door, were from Shreveport. The point of this post is not to bash football. Battle on the Border clearly is a big deal in Louisiana and there is a lot of money that goes into that event each year. I'm also sure that there are various reasons for the football showcase to have low attendance numbers, for example, it was 105 degrees on field level for the majority of both days. There was some relief at night though as it cooled down to a comfortable 85. There were a lot of teams from out of state as well.
My intention here is to point out to hockey fans that there is a gem of a hockey organization in Shreveport, La. On average last year the Mudbugs brought in 2830 fans per night, which was their lowest total in the last 3 seasons. Let's take that number and compare them to the rest of the hockey landscape. At 2830 fans per night they would have the: Second-best average in the Federal Hockey League; Fifth-best average in the United States Hockey League; Seventh-best average in the Southern Professional Hockey League; Better attendance than four teams in the ECHL. The Mudbugs and have been No. 1 or 2 in NAHL attendance since they joined the league in 2016 (hockeydb.com).
The NA3 season picks up where it left off last year as the L/A Nordiques already have a +17 goal differential through 3 games ... Barring anymore teams leaving the league or just plain closing shop, we will only have one division this year where everyone makes the playoffs ... Another fun stat, the Butte Cobras and Sheridan Hawks had a lovely time getting to know one another during their September 13th tilt. One hundred eighty-three PIMs in one game. Apparently, it was an interesting 3rd period. Sheridan proved victorious 8-0. So through 3 games Butte already has 169 PIM ... PIMs are up for a few teams in the league with 7 teams having over 70 PIM through the first weekend ... It looks like the team formerly known as the College Station Spirit, now known as the Texas Roadrunners has found success with its rebranding. It was a hectic offseason for the organization having thought they found their coach, only to have him get offered a college job and have to find a replacement. It appears that the rebranding has been fruitful as the team last year that had trouble filling a roster and didn't win a single division game, has checked both of those boxes off. They have an 18 man roster and defeated the Atlanta Capitals in overtime 5-4 on September 15th. The game winning goal by Garrett Wilderman was set up by the nastiest dangle you'll see in a while. It made the top play of the week for good reason. It was also enough to propel Wilderman to being named South Division Player of the Week.