Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Globe on Hockey

NHL attendance dips by 2.5 per cent Add to ...

There it was yesterday in big capital letters, an email from the NHL's PR wing with the header: "Stanley Cup playoffs attract largest audience ever; Caps best biz year in NHL history."

Indeed, the playoff ratings were great, and there's optimism on that front (as long as two major U.S. markets make the finals every year). But it's certainly worth noting - as former Hurricanes beat writer Luke DeCock did yesterday - that the league's "best biz year in history" came in a season where attendance was down - and significantly so in many markets.

Here's a comparison of the year-end announced attendance figures (as per ESPN) from the past two seasons:

……….

Rk

Teams

2009-10

2008-09

Diff.

%age

1

Kings

17,313

16,488

825

5.0%

2

Bruins

17,388

17,039

349

2.0%

3

Blues

18,883

18,554

329

1.8%

4

Canucks

18,810

18,630

180

1.0%

5

Capitals

18,277

18,097

180

1.0%

6

Penguins

17,078

16,975

103

0.6%

7

Sharks

17,558

17,488

70

0.4%

8

Canadiens

21,273

21,273

0

0.0%

9

Flames

19,289

19,289

0

0.0%

10

Oilers

16,839

16,839

0

0.0%

11

Sabres

18,529

18,531

-2

0.0%

12

Flyers

19,535

19,545

-10

-0.1%

13

Predators

14,979

15,010

-31

-0.2%

14

Maple Leafs

19,260

19,312

-52

-0.3%

15

NY Rangers

18,076

18,172

-96

-0.5%

16

Blue Jackets

15,416

15,543

-127

-0.8%

17

Wild

18,415

18,568

-153

-0.8%

18

Devils

15,535

15,790

-255

-1.6%

19

Red Wings

19,546

19,865

-319

-1.6%

20

Stars

17,215

17,680

-465

-2.6%

21

Panthers

15,146

15,621

-475

-3.0%

22

Senators

18,269

18,949

-680

-3.6%

23

Blackhawks*

21,356

22,247

-891

-4.0%

24

Lightning

15,497

16,497

-1,000

-6.1%

25

Thrashers

13,607

14,626

-1,019

-7.0%

26

NY Islanders

12,735

13,773

-1,038

-7.5%

27

Hurricanes

15,240

16,572

-1,332

-8.0%

28

Avalanche

13,947

15,429

-1,482

-9.6%

29

Ducks

15,168

16,990

-1,822

-10.7%

30

Coyotes*

11,989

14,875

-2,886

-19.4%

Average

17,072

17,476

-403

-2.5%

Two things to note right off the bat:

(a) Chicago's figures are only down due to decreasing the building capacity to put in a restaurant and the fact they hosted the Winter Classic in 2009. We can make an exception for their decline given they still sold out every game.

(b) The Coyotes' messy ownership situation had a disastrous impact on their already modest attendance.

The majority of the NHL's biggest attendance drops this season came in warm weather cities, with seven of the 10 "sunbelt" franchises among the 12 teams with a 1.6 per cent or more dip. The average sunbelt team had 15,371 fans per game this season, down an average of 5.2 per cent from 16,185 and well off the league average of 17,072.

The average Canadian franchise had 18,957 fans per game, with only the Senators down significantly (3.6 per cent). The average U.S. franchise outside of the sunbelt (basically Denver, Midwest and Northeast) had 17,480 fans per game.

The success stories this past season in the sunbelt were the Kings, Sharks and Predators, who all did relatively all right at the gate compared to a year earlier. The two non-sunbelt franchises struggling the most were the Islanders and Avalanche.

There's some reason for concern in Denver, too, given how well the team did.

Keep in mind that these are announced attendance totals only, and some underperforming teams have been known to inflate their numbers by as much as a couple thousand a game. The real divide between different regions is also much larger when you account for the difference in ticket prices.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

 

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories