What was the USHL schedule maker thinking?
Last updated on March 14, 2011 at 01:56 PM

The last time the Waterloo Black Hawks visited Dubuque, the Fighting Saints welcomed 3,479 fans to Mystique Community Ice Center. Boosted by a well-represented Waterloo fan base, that Feb. 11 turnout remains the largest crowd ever to witness a Junior hockey game in the city of Dubuque.

It was the kind of night front office personnel in both Dubuque and Waterloo had in mind when the Saints returned to the USHL after a 10-year absence this fall. They knew fans in both cities would gladly travel to the other team's rink and spend money on a weekend night. It's only a 90-mile trip, and U.S. 20 is straight as an arrow. Get the cash registers ready.

But on a Tuesday? With school and work the next day? Will the fans still come out?

No way.

Predictably, Tuesday's game between the natural rivals drew only 1,720 fans on Tuesday night. And Dubuque missed a great opportunity to pack Mystique again and re-introduce fans to a rivalry that dates back to the early 1980s.

What makes the whole scenario even worse is the fact the Saints will host Waterloo in another mid-week game next month. You can bet the turnout on Wednesday, April 6, will be closer to the one we had here Tuesday night than that record-setting show last month.

Waterloo only visits Dubuque three times this season, and two of them will be mid-week, soft-drawing nights. It doesn't make any sense. And it certainly hurts the bottom line of an expansion team looking to grow a fan base and maximize cash flow.

The USHL must take a serious look at scenarios like this one when it sits down this summer to draw up the schedule for next season. These rivalry games must become a priority, not an afterthought.

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