2017-18 WHL Attendance Report

With the WHL playoffs starting up, I thought it would be fun to look at the WHL regular season attendance numbers.

Overall the league attendance was down 1% year over year for the second consecutive year.

1_WHL League Change in Attendance
Prince George, Edmonton, Vancouver and Red Dear are driving the numbers lower while the Kootenay and Swift Current are offsetting some of those declines with huge growth year over year. 39% and 25% respectfully.

2_Change in Attendance by team
% change doesn’t tell the whole story because Kootenay and Swift Current have relatively low attendance numbers and remain in the bottom 3 in attendance in the league. While Edmonton has declines but still have the highest average attendance in the league.
3_Attendance by team
As you can see by the visual, Seattle and Everett remain in the top half of the league for attendance. Both had strong years with 3% and 5% increase year over year. Seattle’s growth this year has been impressive considering they lost several talented skaters (including Future Calder Trophy winner, Mat Barzal) and are generally considered a team rebuilding.

4_Tips and Birds
If you are interested in how the other teams are doing since 2010-11 Season, I created this visual to show the % change in relative terms. Interesting that there are only a handful of teams, Including Seattle, that have more growth years than declining years.
5_Trends by team

TV markets

I also teased out the hypothetical regional TV markets with WHL teams to see how those teams draw compared to the rest of the league.

6_TV Markets
Impressive to see that both Portland and Spokane are in the top 5 in attendance. The existing hockey fans in those markets should create a great foundation for potential NHL TV ratings.

Future Analysis?

After doing this analysis I found myself asking for more. A key question I would love to answer is how many unique fans attend games per year. (i.e. the average is ~5,000, per game but over a season, how many different fans coming through the gate.) This metric could be a potential indicator of how many hockey fans already exist in their respective markets. Unless you work for the team, getting access to that data will be next to impossible…..but I won’t rule out doing some kind of modeling to project those metrics.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

What’s next?

Technically speaking, nothing changed last week. We have not been awarded a Atrium view from the southeastfranchise, yet, but if the league had any doubts of the support for the NHL in Seattle, I think they heard us loud and clear. We are more than capable of supporting it. After such a smashingly successful ticket drive last week, a lot of folks have been asking what’s next?

The League

It’s not clear that the league has everything it needs to make the decision at this point, but one thing they were most definitely looking at was the ticket drive. I think it is safe to say that we cleared that hurdle by a mile. I imagine there is still a healthy amount of due diligence the league must perform on the arena project and the financial viability of the owners, but I anticipate a lot of this work was completed when the NHL agreed to accept an application from the Seattle group. Let’s assume they complete their checklist, then all signs are pointing to a June announcement. One of the major (potential) owners of the franchise, David Bonderman said last week that he is hopeful for a response from the league in June. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson also mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada that the success of the ticket drive could expedite the league’s response to the application with a potential response to June. Add to the fact that if they are going to announce something, they probably want to steer clear of the NHL Playoffs and make the announcement after a Board of Governors meeting between the NHL awards and the NHL Draft. The date for the awards has not been set, but the Draft is June 22nd and 23rd so let’s just circle the two days prior. Interesting to note is that the NHL Board of Governors approved Vegas Expansion on June 22nd 2016, ~15 months before the start of their first season 2017-18. If the NHL does indeed award Seattle a franchise this coming June, this over 2 years before puck drop in 2020. I’ve noted before that this process has been different than the Vegas process so there is no cause for concern.


One thing I am keeping my eye on is the continued progress of the arena permitting and contracting phase. It’s generally believed the ~2 year window to complete the arena is Interior seating bowl view – Hockey configurationaggressive, but doable. In order to hit the start of the 2020 season, we need to make sure the arena stays on track with a groundbreaking in October and November. Earlier this week, Chris Daniels reported that the Design Review process remains on track with no expected delays. It is these seemingly small events and processes that I am keeping my eye on to look for any delays. One thing to note is that a lot of the local businesses around the Seattle Center arena also want the project to be completed on time and open as quickly as possible.


Season Ticket Drive is March 1st!

It’s official! Seattle’s NHL season ticket drive will be launching March 1st. Today at Mayor Jenny Durkin’s State of the City Address she announced that the season ticket drive will launch March 1st with more information available at NHLSeattle.com.

This is the next big milestone in making NHL to Seattle a reality.

Is there a target number?

If there is a number, it hasn’t been shared. I feel it is more or less a moot point as I expect it to sell out based on a Nielsen report that cited 70,000 people “interested” in a NHL season tickets in the Seattle area. It is not clear if there will be any partial season ticket inside-Hockeyplans available out of the gate. If you want to be part of the inaugural season, then my advice would be to create your own season ticket group. (i.e. find 4 people that want a half season and then get 2 Season tickets.) Full season ticket holders generally get first selection of seats as well.

The Vegas Timeline

Comparing the Seattle process to the Vegas process is a bit of apples and oranges. Back in 2015, Vegas launched their ticket drive February 10th hitting their goal of 10,000 season ticket holders by March 23rd. Then, on June 24th, the NHL announced that it was accepting expansion applications that would due July 20th. The Vegas franchise would not officially be awarded for another year, in June of 2016.

The Seattle process is almost opposite. The application announcement has come before the ticket drive. On December 7th, the NHL announced that they would “accept and consider” expansion application from Seattle. Last week, on February 13th, the league confirmed that it had received the Seattle groups application.

Here is your action plan:

  1. Block your calendar for 10am on March 1st
  2. Peruse the NHLSeattle.com website
  3. Connect to the official NHL Seattle social media outlets:
    a. Instagram
    b. Facebook
    c. Twitter
  4. Plan your season ticket plan – If you are not planning on a full season ticket plan, talk to friends and coworkers about sharing a package. I don’t anticipate there will be any partial plans.
  5. Be at a computer on March 1st at 10 am.
  6. Start saving $


Mayor: OVG has completed their application to the NHL

I will let the Mayor’s tweet do the talking….one step closer!

Update: Elliotte Friedman piled on that the actual application and deposit has been submitted to the NHL.

RMHC Hockey Challenge: February 24th

Over the last 14 years I’ve had the honor of playing in the Ronald McDonald House Hockey Challenge. This is an annual event put on by the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Ronald McDonald House of Western Washington and Alaska. If you don’t know what the_BLP2377 Ronald McDonald House is all about, you should. The Seattle Ronald McDonald House is a home-away-from-home for 700 families each year while their seriously ill child receives medical treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Some families stay for nights, some for months. The House is a warm, supportive and safe place during a very difficult time. Over the years I’ve met with families and discussed their stories and I can tell you it is one amazing charity that has a real impact on people’s lives.

The purpose of the Hockey Challenge is to raise money from the RMHC. This is the one time of year I ask for a little help. I am willing to match up to $1,000 of whatever is contributed in the next two weeks. As a bonus, if I can get over 50 donors, I will be putting in an additional $500. So if I can get 50 people to put in just $20, I will match $1,500. Let’s make it happen.RMHC

This year, the Hockey Challenge is on February 24th at ShoWare Arena in conjunction with the Seattle Thunderbirds-Everett SilverTips game. After the Thunderbirds game, a group of all-stars will take the ice for a fun game between local celebrities, former Thunderbirds and some former NHLs. I will be one of the pylons in the all-star game watching the former NHLs skate circles around me.

NHL Expansion Application is on track

A little bit of NHL to Seattle news came out of the weekend while the NHL Execs were in Tampa for the NHL all star game.

NHL Expansion Application is on track

  • Everything appears to be on track for the potential ownership group in Seattle tosubmit their application with the reported $10 Million application fee in the next few weeks.

Same expansion process as Vegas Golden Knights

It was also widely reported that the league is guaranteeing the same access to players in the expansion process as Vegas. (In case any of you were concerned about the early Golden Knights success might make the expansion player pool more restrictive.)

Season ticket drive update?inside-Hockey

More locally, still no updates on the ticket drive. If you missed my post from a few weeks ago, go check it out. I expect to start hearing more on the ticket drive once the application is submitted to Seattle.

In the meantime, here were some NHL to Seattle centric articles that were published over the last week:

Season Ticket Drive Thoughts

There is not a day that goes by that people don’t ask me about the season ticket drive. People hit me up on social media, text, email, and just about every hockey friend I run into asks me about it. I love that Seattle hockey fans are so excited about the possibility of an NHL hockey team coming to town. Let me share with you all the information that I DO know about the season ticket drive.

In a nutshell, I don’t know much on the ticket drive since not much has been announced since the league and city’s announcement on December 7th. What I do know is based on a combination of listening to everything that is being said publicly by people in the know, leveraging data and observed behavior of Vegas. I figured I would summarize my thoughts and findings here:

When will the season ticket drive launch?

No official timeline has been announced from OVG. Based on comments from last Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada, it would appear they want to put the Executive staff in place before finalizing and publishing any ticket drive timeline. That sounds like a February launch, but again, nothing official. I’ve been suggesting people to sign up for the NHLtoSeattle newsletter here. I don’t use it a lot, but intend to send out ticket drive details as more information is known.

Pricing & Down payment

Another hot topic is how much the tickets will cost. There has been no reporting or speculation on that…so let’s speculate. For starters, let’s look at tickets prices in Seattle for the NFL and MLB to get an idea on how Seattle stacks up as a sports ticketing market. The chart below plots the average ticket price by league and team.


As you can tell, Seattle as a market is right at the league median ($30 for MLB. $92 for the NFL). As a starting point, we might be able to anticipate Seattle’s NHL Ticket prices to be around the NHL median so now let’s look at the NHL ticket prices.


The median of the average ticket price is around $73 but as you can see, I teased out the Golden Knights to see how they compare as a first-year franchise with one of the smaller venues in the league. (The redeveloped Seattle Center arena will have close to the same capacity). Obviously, ticket prices will vary based on where you sit in the arena and as a good rule of thumb, I tend to think lower bowl between the blue lines could be double the average ticket price ($150 to $178), while upper deck could be half the average ($36 – $44).
As far as down payment or “pledge”, Vegas Golden Knights required a 10% commitment of the value of the season ticket package. This was refundable if the league chose not to expand to Vegas. I would anticipate something similar, so depending on your price point, multiply ticket price by the 44 games and then 10% of that would be your down payment.

Is there a sales target?

“Vegas wants hockey” was the Golden Knights ticket drive campaign. They had a stated goal of 10,000 season ticket holders when the campaign launched. To date there has been no reference to a goal for Seattle’s ticket drive. If there is one, I expect it to be announced by the time the campaign launches. No matter what the goal, I am fairly confident we will hit and hit it quickly. According to research I saw from Scarborough  from 2015, there is over 70,000 people “interested” in NHL season tickets in Seattle.

My recommendations for interested season ticket holders:

  • Join my mailing list. Once I find out more about the ticket drive, I will communicate Facebook, Twitter, blog and email. I don’t want interested folks to miss out.
  • Plan your season ticket plan. If you are like me, I am looking at creating a season ticket group that will sit together for games. Start talking with friends to make sure they sign up around the same time. I imagine there will be a process for selecting your seats based on when you sign up. In order to sit with or near friends, you probably need to get in the same window. I’ve also been talking to friends about full seasons, half season etc. I am already looking forward on having a draft to determine who gets what games.
  • Budget and Save. We are 30ish months away from buying our inaugural season tickets. I am a planner, so I am already putting money aside into my “NHL in Seattle fund”. I am sure I will be buying a jersey and going through plenty of face paint in the first season.

Would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.