This is adapted from something I wrote over on the CalgaryPuck's QC Flames hockey forum. Its some of my thoughts as to why we probably won't have an AHL hockey team next year.
I think the Flames' problems all go back to last year. The rollout of the team wasn't great, causing early attendance to be lower than it should have. Some of the QC's hardcore hockey fans were alienated by the name change. Then the team started losing constantly, so it was hard to get new people to go to the games. When fans did go, they sat in an empty arena. No matter how exciting the game is, or how excited and enthusiastic the crowd is, if you're sitting there with 7,000 empty seats, it doesn't have a great atmosphere. Casual fans were turned off by this, increasing problems. It really became a vicious cycle in my opinion. I don't know what started it, or how to keep it from happening again if we get a new team.
Everyone (including me) likes to point out the River Bandits' awesome attendance turnaround. They had basically the opposite cycle. People were excited about lower ticket prices and returning to the River Bandits name, so early attendance was good. The crowds were excited and enthusiastic, so people had a good time regardless of the result on the field. The owners added more promotions, bringing in even more people, causing games to be packed and even more exciting. The year's attendance increased by something like 60%, despite the flooding issues.
One of the differences in these 2 scenarios is that the River Bandits have an incentive to fill the seats, even at low prices, because they get the concession and souvenir revenue. As far as I know, the Flames get nothing from concession sales, so having 8,000 fans paying $5 isn't really any better on paper than 4,000 fans paying $10. However, sitting in an arena with 8,000 people is a hell of a lot more fun than one with 4,000... or 2,000.
So I guess my point is that big crowds cause big crowds. The trouble is getting the good cycle going rather than the downward spiral.
Also, happy St. Patrick's Day.