I’ve compiled the Attendance records of all games through the end of February. The league remands flat year over year. (Note: that no outdoor games are included in any of this visuals.)
The league got a bump from the Columbus Blue Jackets tear through the league earlier this season as well as the Oilers opening a new bar in Edmonton. Those gains were offset by big drops in Ottawa and Colorado.
Here is the interactive dashboard where you can look at individual teams detailed performance.
Overall the NHL attendance is relatively flat year over year with an increase from 17,233 last year through November games to 17,280 through this year.
On a team by team level, 4 teams saw an increase over 5% from last year while 3 teams saw declines of 5% or greater. Edmonton saw a large spike due to the new arena they are playing in this year while the Ottawa Senators saw the largest drop, down 13.3% through the November games.
You can drill into each teams performance to date using this interactive dashboard by selecting a team in the drop down in the upper right corner. (I apologize in advance. It is not mobile friendly.)
With 3 months in the books, attendance numbers are stabilizing and should be fairly consistent from here on out.
Florida’s turn-around has been extraordinary and with the current winning streak, they should continue to see gains. Another way to look at their improvement is to break it down by opponent. They have a higher average attendance for 15 of the 16 teams they have played this year. 44% (18 of 41) of their games had less than 10,000 in attendance. In the first 19 games of the year (through December) all games have been over 10,000. Yes, 10,000 is not great but progress should be commended.
With October coming to an end, I thought it would be a good time to check in with NHL attendance. One month does not make a season as a lot of teams (and fans) are still figuring out how competitive a product they are putting on the ice. That said, there can be some early signs of how the season might go for these clubs.
NHL League Average for October
As the table shows, average attendance is down 1.4% compared to October of last year. It is early to draw any conclusions as most of this can be chalked up to more of the lower attendance teams had more games this October than they did last October, bringing the weighted average down a bit. As you will see in the next chart, six teams have over 5% declines year over year with Carolina and New Jersey having over 10% declines.
The bigger story of October is the growth in Florida and the steady inclines in Arizona. They absolutely had the most opportunity to improve but the growth and improvement will not happen over night. The fact that neither team made the playoffs last year makes the gains a little surprising. Florida did have an exciting March/April last year which tends to be a leading indicator of attendance. In Arizona, fans might be wanting to tune into see how the young guns in the desert can perform this year.
Here is my Attendance report on the NHL 2014-15 Season.
In spite of promotional strategy changes in Carolina and Florida, Attendance was flat year over year for the league. This should be considered very positive for the league as other teams were able to make up the gaps generated by the steep declines in Carolina and Florida.
Dallas Stars and New York Islanders were the big turnaround stories at the gate this year with 12% and 10% increases respectively. Islanders turnaround was due to a great team on the ice. Dallas turnaround is part of a long term turnaround by Tom Gaglardi and Jim Lites.
As I alluded to earlier, step declines in Carolina and Florida were expected as executives for both teams made public comments that they would stop deep discounts/promotions on tickets just to get more butts in seats. This is a better long term approach especially before a team is set for an upswing on the ice. The Panthers are a young solid team that should be a contender for the coming years.
I know people see the empty seats on Florida and call for relocation but as I’ve said before, Boston, Pittsburgh and Chicago all had their issues with attendance when they went years without making the playoffs. Florida has been the least successful team over the last 10 years.
Here is the average attendance by road team. It is not really fair to compare teams on how they draw on the road for multiple reasons. For starters, some (home) teams sellout regardless who is playing. Most teams in the Atlantic sell out so when Florida and Buffalo play on the road, most of their games will draw well since they play more Atlantic games. The Metropolitan division has a little more volatility. It is still fun to look at but just note it is not the complete picture.
NHL attendance continues to be strong in spite of big drops in Carolina and Florida. 2014-15 is on track to be the highest gate attendance ever (2012-13 was a lockout shortened season). Outdoor games were excluded from figures below.
No major shifts in the growth and decline numbers. Keep in mind that roughly have of all NHL teams sellout every regular season game therefore variability is only possible for half the teams. Dallas, Columbus, and Colorado are up this year due to making the playoffs last year even though they are all unlikely to make the playoffs this year.
The Coyotes attendance is down this a bit last year but without making the playoffs in 2013-14 and a poor performing year on the ice this year, this should be expected.
The silver lining for Arizona is that the distribution and variability from game to game this season has not been as large.
Carolina and Florida
Carolina and Florida attendance is soft as both teams had some ticketing strategy changes last summer. (Less giveaways and discounts that were undercutting the value of paying customers) This was the right decision which makes it tough to compare year over year. (Side note: expect Florida’s attendance to do well with a battle to get in the playoffs and favorable attendance matchups with the Leafs playing tonight and 2 games a piece remaining with the Canadiens and Bruins.
No really changes from last month as the NHL continues strong attendance numbers in spite of steep drop-offs in Florida and Carolina. This is the first month we have seen 2012-2013 numbers. As you might recall, the season did not start until mid-January. The spike was related to pent up demand and opening night sellouts inflating the January average. The NHL’s attendance numbers are extraordinary when you realize that roughly have the league sells out every game.
By team, no real change over last month. Dallas overtook Columbus as the top gainer over last year.
Carolina’s drop was expected based on cutting promotions before the Season started.
It is also hard to blame fans in Carolina right now as the Hurricanes have the longest playoff drought of US teams. I know everyone thinks that teams should support their teams in winning and losing seasons but outside Canada, that doesn’t happen too often.
In spite of steep drop-offs in Carolina and Florida, the NHL Reported Attendance through December is up slightly. Columbus and Dallas are leading the growth with double digit growth in the same period last year.
The Blue Jackets growth over last year is probably most attributable to their exciting playoff series last year where they won their first ever playoff game against the Pittsburgh. If you remember, they started the season very poorly and it wasn’t until the last 15 games that they’ve been playing great hockey. I expect this growth to cool off a bit due to their strong attendance the second half of last season.