When the dust settles on the National Hockey League’s 3rd lockout since 1994 the question seems to be whether or not the fans will come breaking down the doors as they did in 2005.
It’s a valid question to ask especially since the current situation could have been avoided if both the NHL & NHLPA were proactive enough to get a deal done. Right now some NHL fans are begging the league and the players to compromise on a new collective bargaining agreement while others may be considering giving up their season tickets altogether.
Let’s look at the top 10 teams, attendance wise, from 1994-1995 and compare them with 1993-1994. We’ll do the same for 2005-2006 compared to 2003-2004.
1994-1995 Attendance Averages
Chicago Blackhawks – 20,832 (The Blackhawks made the playoffs the season before 1993-1994 and averaged 17,683).
Tampa Bay Lightning – 19,932 (Tampa had only been in existence for two seasons when the 1994-95 lockout ended and finished second in average attendance.)
Detroit Red Wings – 19,779 (While the Red Wings didn’t lead the league in attendance they did manage to average more than 93-94 when they brought in 19,625 on a nightly basis.)
St. Louis Blues – 19,469 (The Blues saw a lot less empty seats in 94-95 than they did in 93-94 when they averaged 17,313)
Calgary Flames - 19,035 (Calgary averaged 19,214 in 93-94 being the first team on this list to have lower numbers from the year before, still not a large drop.)
New York Rangers – 18,200 (Coming off a Stanley Cup Championship the Rangers averaged 500 more fans than they did in their cup season bringing in 17,761 in 93-94)
San Jose Sharks – 17,190 (San Jose also saw an increase from 93-94 when 16,537 saw the Sharks play night in and night out)
Anaheim Mighty Ducks – 17,174 (The Ducks sure were Mighty following the lockout…at least in their attendance. The Ducks averaged 16,728 in 93-94, so a nice increase)
Philadelphia Flyers – 17,160 (Philly’s number also increased from the 17,020 they averaged in 93-94)
Montreal Canadiens – 16,964 (The Habs saw a slight drop in attendance from 1993-1994 when they averaged 16,979. Yep a whole 15 less fans from the season before, that’s about a slight a drop as you can get)
What do these numbers mean? Well 8 of the top 10 teams averaged more fans post-lockout with the only two teams that averaged less being Canadian markets (Montreal and Calgary).
2005-2006 Attendance Averages
Montreal Canadiens – 21,273 (No surprise Montreal led the way also not surprising that they averaged more fans than they did in 2003-2004 when they brought in 20,555 nightly)
Tampa Bay Lightning – 20,509 (Coming off a Stanley Cup win the Lightning saw a big increase in attendance from the 17,820 that packed the St. Pete Times Forum in 03-04)
Detroit Red Wings – 20,064 (Detroit should be and is a fixture in the top 10 in attendance and averaged literally 2 less fans in 05-06 than they did in 03-04 with 20,066)
Philadelphia Flyers – 19,653 (Again it’s no surprise the Flyers appear in the top 10 as they raked in almost 300 more fans on average than they did in 03-04 when the Wachovia Center hosted 19,375 nightly)
Ottawa Senators – 19,474 (Sens fans came storming back into Scotia Bank Place averaging almost 2,000 more fan than the 17,758 that came through the turnstiles in 2003-2004)
Toronto Maple Leafs – 19,408 (In 2003-2004 the Leafs averaged 19,376 good for third in the league. They averaged more fans in 05-06 but were only good enough for 6th place in attendance after the season long lockout)
Calgary Flames – 19,289 (The Flames were a big winner, attendance wise, post lockout. Capitalizing on their Western Conference Championship they averaged about 2,700 more fans than 03-04 when brought in 16,579 at Pengrowth Saddledome)
Vancouver Canucks – 18,630 (Well the Canucks didn’t averaged more or less than they did in 2003-2004, it was the same 18,630)
Minnesota Wild – 18,575 (The Wild brought in just a hair more than 03-04. That season they averaged 18,530)
New York Rangers – 18,142 (18,080 for the Rangers in 2003-2004. More fans for them too post lockout)
9 out of the top 10 teams averaged more than they did pre-lockout w/only Detroit averaging less (but seriously, 2 less fans?!).
I guess you can read into it what you will but history tends to repeat itself. Will all 30 teams fans’ come knocking down the door? Probably not but as whole I don’t see the fans turning away from going to NHL games.
The above trends say you’ll come back, Gary Bettman says you’ll comeback and you know what? You probably will because you love hockey, you bleed your favorite team’s colors.
Honestly, is there anything like the Stanley Cup Playoffs? How about Stanley Cup Playoff overtime? I live for those games, as nerve racking as they may be, it’s the reason we watch meaningless games in November.
But guys (Gary, Bill, and Donald I’m looking at you) let’s get this CBA thing worked out relatively soon. I’m sick of watching “end the lockout” videos on YouTube and I’m ready to start watching those meaningless games in November because during a lockout each lost game is meaningful.
What’s your take? Will you be buying tickets for the first Flyers home game this season (whenever that may be)?
All statistics can be found at The Internet Hockey Database