LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana IceGators fell short of both the Pensacola Ice Flyers and their goal of setting a Southern Professional Hockey League attendance record, but that doesn’t mean the night wasn’t considered a success.
The IceGators drew 7,200 fans to the Cajundome for Friday night’s game, which they lost 5-1. It was the largest crowd General Manager Louis Dumont said the team has had in his four-year tenure.
“It blew away any total we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “I know our goal was 10,000, but hey, we’re extremely happy with so many people here. Exposing people to the game is something that we’re all about.”
The crowd was loud and engaged, with virtually the entire lower bowl filled, and the Cajundome was supercharged for a moment when the IceGators took a 1-0 lead in the first period.
It was a throwback of sorts to the IceGators’ golden years, when they regularly filled the arena while playing in the East Coast Hockey League. Dumont, who played for those IceGators teams in the late 90s, had a flashback before the game.
“I had chills going down my spine during the anthem, because I had the feeling of looking around and the building was full — to me, it felt full,” he said. “That was kind of a, ‘Wow, this is what it was like before’ moment. It was awesome when we used to play here. Now, these guys know it can be this good; let’s try to keep winning here.”
The game drew plenty of regulars decked out in their green and white IceGators sweaters, but it also rekindled the fire of some fans who had been away from the team for a while.
Ron Chauvin, a 63-year-old Lafayette resident, said he came with his family to the Cajundome to help break the record. It was his second time seeing the IceGators play, and he described the atmosphere as “exciting, electrifying.”
The same goes for 35-year-old Jacob Fox, who attended the game with his wife, sister-in-law and a bunch of young kids. Fox was seated on the floor near the IceGators goal, tickets he finagled from his work when his sister-in-law told him about the record attempt.
The last time he had been to a game was back in the early 2000s.
“Everybody is having an enjoyable time,” he said, before pointing at the kids. “They’ve never been here; they’re actually from Pensacola. They want me to try to get tickets for every game now.”
While they fell short of the record, Dumont said it wouldn’t be the last time the IceGators try to break it.
“We’re thinking the beginning of next season, picking a good night when there’s no other sports going on and no football,” Dumont said. “We easily can do it. This is a large area. The next step would be 9,000.”