NHL attendance down slightly from lockout year, but let's look closer

Christian Petersen

While arenas might be seeing fewer fans this season, it's important to look at the numbers a bit more closely.

The popularity of the NHL is budding. League revenue is up, with projections steadily inclining, so much to the point it's been reported the salary cap is going to increase by a lot come next season.

So that means attendance must also being going up, right?

Well, not quite. Thursday evening, James Mirtle of The Globe & Mail tweeted out this graphic, which reveals some unfortunate truths about this season's attendance numbers.

On the left side of the above chart you see the 2012-2013 season, and in the next column is this season's attendance, followed by the total number and percentage differentials.

Of course, there are a number of things worth pointing out. In last year's lockout shortened season, every game carried more significance, and there was more of a demand for tickets due to the fewer number of games. Mirtle was also quick to point out that attendance in most U.S. cities rises with the second half of the season, and we still don't have this season's completed totals. A competitive Olympics in Sochi could certainly lead to an attendance and interest boom among fair-weather American hockey fans.

So maybe it's more accurate to compare this season's attendance to the 2011-2012, 82-game full season?

Numbers for some teams look a lot different. While the Panthers are still the basement dwellers of the group, the Stars attendance is actually up, increasing from 14,227 in 2011-12, to 14,678 this season. The Coyotes have also seen an increase in attendance comparing this year's season to that 2011-12 campaign. The Wild also have seen a higher attendance this season (18,134) versus 2011-12 (17,773).

A few other teams like the Devils and Lightning still see a dip in attendance, but a far smaller number when comparing this season to that last full slate of games.

In total, of the 19 teams that have seen a dip in attendance between the lockout shortened season and this season, seven of those teams have actually seen an increase if you compare this season's figure to 2011-12.

Obviously, attendance going down is never a good thing. Some numbers do still stick out, like the St. Louis Blues, who despite despite being a top team in the West this year have seen a decrease since 2011-12. (And even though it's a Cardinals town, the two team's seasons barely overlap.) Nevertheless, it was always going to be difficult to match the anticipation and demand that came with the 48-game season in 2013.

2011-2012 attendance data via HockeyAttendance.com.

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