Is the Bay Area ready for more hockey? San Francisco's newest professional sports team thinks the answer is yes, and tonight it will begin to find out if it's right.
The San Francisco Bulls, an East Coast Hockey League franchise, will play their inaugural regular season game at 7:15 p.m. against the Bakersfield Condors at the Cow Palace. Click here for the full schedule.
The Bulls have reason to believe they can be successful at drawing fans. At least 5,200 tickets have been sold for tonight's game, a pretty good number for an ECHL team. You can think of the ECHL as hockey's version of baseball's Double A, with the Bulls featuring prospects from the San Jose Sharks, their NHL parent club. (The American Hockey League is hockey's Triple A league.) Capacity at the Cow Palace will be 8,500 for Bulls games.
Thanks to the Sharks, Bulls players and management also have ample evidence that Bay Area sports fans appreciate hockey. The Sharks drew an average of 17,562 fans per game during the 2011-2012 season, according to ESPN. That's the capacity for hockey at HP Pavilion.
And at least for now, those Sharks fans will have to come to San Francisco if they want to check out pro hockey. That's because the NHL has cancelled games through Oct. 24 due to a labor dispute with the players. The season was slated to open Thursday.