One expects the seven Canadian teams in the National Hockey League to be at the top of the league’s attendance. But that isn’t the case thus far in the 2012-13 season.
Despite averaging 100-percent sellout averages, the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets are in the NHL’s attendance gutter. Edmonton averages 16,839 people a game, sitting 24th among the 30 teams in attendance. Winnipeg averages 15,004 people a game, placing them 26th.
The Oilers and Jets sit behind teams with rumoured financial issues such as the Tamp Bay Lighting (19,204), Carolina Hurricanes (18,262), Dallas Stars (17,948), New Jersey Devils (17,272), Nashville Predators (17,142), and Florida Panthers (17,104) in attendance average.
The Oilers and Jets’ poor attendance numbers are simply because of their small arenas. Winnipeg’s MTS Arena is the smallest rink in the NHL. It sits less people than Saskatoon’s Credit Union Centre, which holds 15,195. Edmonton’s Rexall Place, which holds 16,839, is the third smallest barn in the league.
Since the MTS Arena was built in 2004, it seems the Jets won’t be playing in a new rink anytime soon.
The Oilers on the other hand, will call a new barn home in the near future with Edmonton city councillors approving owner Darryl Katz on a new downtown arena in late January.
Although the numbers aren’t released to the public, taking into account the Oilers and Jets’ ticket prices are much steeper than other organizations, their ticket revenue undoubtedly won’t be in the bottom 10.
The other five Canadians teams are in the league’s top 10. The Montreal Canadiens lead the way with 21,273, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs (19,297), Calgary Flames (19,289), Vancouver Canucks (19,022), and Ottawa Senators (18,953). Ottawa’s 99-percent sellout average is the only percentage of the five below 100.
Taking into account reports have surfaced that suggest the Bolts haven’t been in the black since they won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04, it’s quite surprising to see Tampa Bay in seventh with a 19,204 attendance average. They are up quite a bit from last year when they averaged 18,468 a game, which ranked 13th.
The Bolts’ 97.2-percent sellout rate sits 22nd in The Show, though. It is still, however, one-percent up from last year.
Dallas and Carolina sitting ahead of original six franchises such as the Boston Bruins (17,565) and New York Rangers (17,200) is unexpected, especially with the amount of empty seats one sees on television in Texas and North Carolina.
Nonetheless, as mentioned above with Edmonton and Winnipeg, ticket revenue and attendance are two different clans.
The Chicago Blackhawks sit atop of the NHL with a 21,583 average. Fans are willing to stand in Illinois with the Blackhawks having a 109.5-percent sellout rate, which is also the highest in the league.
Chicago’s box-office success can be credited to owner Rocky Wirtz. He turned the Blackhawks around after taking them over in 2007 following his father and former owner, Bill Wirtz, passing away. As soon as he took over the team, Wirtz inked deals with WGN-TV and Comcast SportsNet Chicago. He also hired marketing guru John McDonough, who previously worked for the Chicago Cubs in Major League Baseball.
Behind Montreal in second and ahead of Toronto in fifth, the Detroit Redwings (20,066) and Philadelphia Flyers (19,700) round out the top five.
The Phoenix Coyotes are dead last in the league with 12,690. Their attendance percentage of 74.1 is also last.
It should come to no surprise of anyone to see the Coyotes at the bottom of the barrel. Hockey simply hasn’t worked in Glendale, AZ. It seems it is only a matter of time before the Yotes are moved to Seattle, Quebec, or Ontario, especially with their current ownership issues.
The New York Islanders’ 13,115 sits second last.
The Islanders’ days on Long Island are numbered. They are moving to Brooklyn in 2015 because they were unable to reach a new agreement in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. For the Islanders’ sake, one hopes their new location will help their ticket sales.
The Columbus Blue Jackets (13,725), Colorado Avalanche (14,955), and Jets round out the bottom five.
All that being said, attendance averages can be deceiving. Organizations that struggle to sellout games such as the Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers have deflated their averages by giving away tickets and selling them for jaw-dropping low prices.