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.