METRO/Jeff Harper A Mooseheads fan holds up a sign earlier this season at the Metro Centre.

The Metro Centre has been a crowded house for Halifax Mooseheads games so far this season.

Through nine home games, the Mooseheads — first in the QMJHL with a 17-2-0-1 record — have an average attendance of 8,058, up more than 2,000 fans per game from this time last season.

It’s believed to the most well attended opening nine games in franchise history.

“If I didn’t own the team, I’d be buying tickets to watch this team too,” quipped Mooseheads owner Bobby Smith after being informed of the numbers.

Games are so well attended, fans are finding it difficult to get more than a single seat in the lower bowl on game days.

Smith chalks up the increased interest to the team’s winning ways and the star power of top 2013 NHL draft prospects Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Zach Fucale.

“There are lots of things a junior fan would want to come out and see,” Smith said. “You’ve got three guys who are probably going to be first-round picks, you’ve got a hometown guy (Cole Harbour’s MacKinnon) who is one of the stars of the team, and you’ve got a very good hockey team.”

Smith said the increased attendance not only makes the games more fun for fans in the stands, it changes the game on the ice.

“There’s no question, it makes it a lot more fun for our players, and a lot more fun for the visiting players,” Smith said. “We always see every team’s best game when they come to Halifax. It’s a great atmosphere.”

Since Smith bought the team in 2003, the Mooseheads have never averaged more than 7,175 through nine games.

Even in 1999-2000, when the Mooseheads set a franchise record for attendance with 8,453 per game, their average through nine contests was 7,979, slightly behind this season.

Although crowds historically increase as the season moves along, Smith stopped short of predicting a new Mooseheads attendance record.

“I don’t think we’re looking at numbers that high,” he said, “but it will be interesting to see.”

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