Following the most recent NHL lockout fans and analysts alike pondered what the most recent work stoppage would do to attendance around the league.
As of the date of this article, numerous teams have completed 50% of their 2013 NHL schedule. The teams that haven't crossed the midway point need to play one or two more games before they too cross into the second half of their season. This seems like as good a time as any to start examining attendance figures across the NHL.
The findings are extremely positive in some areas, but unfortunately extremely discouraging in others.
Let's start with the great and most obvious findings.
The Chicago Blackhawks are using their remarkable streak to sell a ridiculous number of tickets at the United Center. How ridiculous? The Blackhawks have averaged an attendance of 21,576 over the course of their 12 home games. Not impressed? That figure is 109.4% capacity, according to ESPN. Chicago is no stranger to attendance that exceeds 100% capacity, but their current figure is above their 105% mark from 2011-12.
The Dallas Stars are also enjoying a large boost in attendance, which might be more impressive than Chicago's gaudy numbers due to the fact the Stars have a mediocre 11-9-2 record. In fact, Dallas is leading the NHL with a 32% increase over last season's figures. This number might be a bit misleading considering Dallas had the third lowest attendance in 2011-12, bringing in an average of 14,226 fans a game. So far in 2013, the Stars are averaging 17,672 a game. Overall, despite their growth, the Stars are still 17th in average attendance. It's safe to say Jaromir Jagr's groupies are responsible for the significant growth.
Across the league NHL attendance is 17,668 fans a game, up 2% when compared to 2011-12. Lockout? What lockout?
Unfortunately, not all of the news is positive.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are averaging 13,648 fans a game, a drop from their average of 14,660 last year. Currently, the Blue Jackets have the worst capacity percentage (75.2%) in the NHL. At this rate, the Blue Jackets may set a new record-low for worst attendance in franchise history.
The St. Louis Blues have also seen a pretty significant drop, slipping from 18,809 fans a game in 2011-12 (9th in the NHL) to 17,741 (16th in the NHL) in 2013. The Blues were expected to be a Cup favorite this year but have struggled (11-9-2), especially at home (5-5-1).
The Blues and Blue Jackets have suffered the worst attendance drops in the Western Conference.
Not surprisingly, the Phoenix Coyotes are still struggling to bring in fans. Last season the Coyotes were only at 72.5% capacity, last in the NHL. This season the Coyotes have improved slightly to 76%, but that number is still discouraging for a team that's made the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.
Which team is bringing in the fewest fans? That title belongs to the New York Islanders and their average of 12,563 a game, a drop from their 13,191 in 2011-12. The Islanders should see a boost in attendance when they move to Brooklyn, but until then things will likely remain pretty ugly.
We'll revisit this topic in a few months when all the data is in.