Boise has experienced an influx of residents moving to the area in recent years following the COVID-19 pandemic. With this, their minor league hockey team, the Idaho Steelheads, has also experienced an influx of fans.
Unlike most states, Idaho lacks professional sports teams to entertain their residents. Thus, you would assume that their minor league teams like the Steelheads and the Boise Hawks would bring in large crowds of fans.
However, that is not quite the case. In fact, over the duration of the 2003 to 2020 seasons, the Steelheads failed to reach more than an average of 4,700 fans per game according to HockeyDB.com.
It was not until the 2021-2022 season where the team was able to break their fan attendance and record a game average of 5,009 fans. During the most recent season, the team recorded an average of 5,114 fans per game.
So what is it that has convinced fans to attend the Steelheads game? Is it the dollar beer on Wednesday nights? Or perhaps the 78.9% win percentage the team recorded in their 2022-2023 season?
“Attending the Steelheads games has been one of the highlights of my college career,” said senior Boise State student and Steelheads fan Elise Boockholdt. “Besides the recent success of the team, it has been a really great way to support my community.”
The Steelheads have had great success in ECHL play this season. With 57 games played so far, they have recorded a 45-9 record and 93 points, making them the best in the league.
“It is so exciting to be able to introduce my kids to such a fun sport,” said mom of two, Allison Cunningham. “Allowing them to experience wins with their community has shown them why I love Boise.”
Many of the individuals moving to the area are originally from cities that feature professional sports teams. Because the Steelheads are a minor league program, their stadium only has capacity for 5,000 seats and 39 entertainment suites. In comparison, the average NHL stadium holds 18,320 seats.
So, how does a small Idaho minor league hockey team entertain all these people who have experienced the crazed environment of a professional hockey game?
“After moving to Boise from Southern California, my family was so excited to attend a Steelheads game after all the Kings games we used to go to,” said new Boise resident Katie Miller. “The environment of the Steelheads game felt so much more intimate, and it felt like we were watching our friends play.”
For the first season, nearly every game has come close to or has officially been sold out. The combination of an amazing community and the recent success of this current team has proved to residents of Boise that watching the Steelheads is how they should spend their evenings.