The Regina Pats, as general manager Brent Parker knows all too well, have not given their once faithful fans much reason to believe that better times are just around the corner.
The club occupies last place in the East Division after missing the playoffs last spring, and attendance figures mirror the frustration of the Pats followers. The club is drawing an average of 4,022 after 10 home games, down from 4,594 at this time last year.
Still, the numbers have left Parker downright disconsolate and befuddled, considering the presence of WHL superstar Jordan Eberle and the excitement he creates during each and every home contest.
“It boggles my mind that people aren’t coming to watch him,” Parker told the Regina Leader-Post, prior to Wednesday’s 7-4 win over the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers.
“If (fans) come to watch us for no other reason, they should be coming to watch this guy. He is truly worth the price of admission most nights. You don’t have to be a fan of the Pats or a fan of anything other than the game to go and watch this guy. People are missing out on a very special home-grown athlete. That’s a shame.”
Parker went as far as to compare Eberle’s worth to Regina to a noted NHL mega-star’s appeal in Washington.
“You look at what (Alex) Ovechkin meant to Washington,” said Parker.
“Over the years they struggled along and now their building is full all the time and people beat down the doors to go watch him play. Here we are with someone you could arguably call a national hero in terms of hockey (for his role in last year’s world junior title). He’s a Regina kid, grew up right here, and has been doing all these things for a lot of years right here (in minor hockey).
“I had one GM relay a story to me about a fan he was talking to in Prince Albert the night Eberle came back (from the Edmonton Oilers) and torched them. The GM said he turned to the guy sitting beside him and said, ‘Regina is here three more times, I would suggest you get your tickets now, because that guy you’re watching is going to play a lot of years in the NHL and be a very, very special player.’ It’s hard for me to fathom that he doesn’t have the same impact here as a guy like Ovechkin has had in Washington because you can draw a lot of parallels.”
Of course, as the Leader-Post’s Greg Harder noted, the Caps have been an NHL power for the past three years while the Pats are currently a losing team for a second consecutive campaign.
• On the move: The Lethbridge Hurricanes added experience, toughness and a winning attitude when they acquired 20-year-old forward Dustin Donaghy from the Spokane Chiefs on Thursday. Donaghy played 123 games with the Chiefs after being listed by the club in 2007 and was a part of the 2008 Memorial Cup championship squad. In 13 games this season, the five-foot-11, 200-pound Cranbrook, B.C., product had one assist and 23 penalty minutes. “Trades involving players from the Memorial Cup team are more difficult, but we feel Lethbridge will be a good opportunity for Dustin,” said Chiefs GM Tim Speltz, who got a sixth-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft in exchange for Donaghy.