Road Attendance Volatility in the NHL

With the modified schedule and in conference only games of this shortened season I began to wonder what were the impacts to limiting the set of opponents for a given team. So I took a deep dive into the Attendance figures over the last 2 years to understand a little more of the business side of schedule dynamics.

I assumed that any game that was 99%+ of arena capacity was essentially a sellout,  16 of the 31* teams over the last two seasons have virtually sold out every regular season game played in their barn. Those 16 teams are Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, Edmonton, Montreal, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose, St. Louis, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington and Winnipeg. Here is how the capacity matrix breaks out:
In addition to teams that have a lot of green, there are several home teams with a lot of red or yellow in their columns. With the 16 teams that have sold out every That leaves 15 teams with what I call Attendance Volatility. It is the teams with Attendance Volatility that I want to dig into. Let’s go ahead and isolate them to help us understand what we are dealing with:


The far right column of the grid above is the volatility index. Another way to look at it is the expected capacity when the visiting team plays a team that does not sell out every game. Looking at some of the detail you can see the best teams on the road are Boston, Detroit, Pittsburg, Winnipeg & Chicago.
The bottom 5(or 6) are Carolina, Dallas, Phoenix, Atlanta*, Minnesota and Nashville.


The most surprising team in the Top 5 is Winnipeg as all other 4 have won the Stanley Cup within the previous 5 years. With determining a common thread (Recent Stanley Cup Champions) of 4 of the top 5 I went back to 2007-08 & 2008-09 seasons to see if the Anaheim Ducks winning the Stanley Cup in 2007 had a material impact on road attendance the following two seasons. The results were rather inconclusive. The Ducks only played 15 teams on the road that they played on the road in the 2006-2007 season. Of those 15 teams, they averaged more than they did in 2006-07 season in only 5 of the 15 sites another 5 saw a decrease in attendance and the remaining 5 were neutral. 

Another interesting take on the data is evaluating the worst match ups for attendance. There were 5 matchups in those two years that averaged less than 50% capacity.
                Anaheim @ New York Islanders

                Carolina @ Phoenix
                Columbus @ Atlanta
                Nashville @ Phoenix
                Ottawa @ Phoenix


As information trickles in on the realignment plans of the NHL, this becomes an interesting reference to determine who are the real winner$ and loser$ on hosting teams that might not draw well on the road.     

Some odds and ends:
  • I broke out Atlanta from Winnipeg to help with comparability
  • According to Wikipedia, the hockey Capacity for the Tampa Bay Times Forum is 19,204 but on February 17th 2011, the reported capacity was 20,849 when the Lightening welcomed the Red Wings to town. After further investigation, the arena had some renovations in 2012 that eliminated 500+ seats.
  • For obvious reasons, I’ve removed counting Winter Classics, Heritage Games and Premier games in the data

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