Attendance Volatility of the 2011-12 NHL season

Last night on did some analysis on attendance to date over the first 34 games of this appreciated NHL season. I posted my findings on twitter and it created quite the buzz.tweet

It was not the most in depth analysis but it was a relatively fair view at the games year over year. So I decided to take it a little further and determine what the typical season looks like from a seasonality perspective to see when we might really understand the impacts, if any to the lockout.

We often hear that NHL operates at a +95% occupancy. That’s outstanding but I wanted to take a look at some of the teams that have more attendance volatility. So I’ve decided to take a deep dive at the seasonality for the 2011-12 season. For this exercise, I’ve isolated any team that operate at a 99% occupancy rate for the season. The assumption here is that they virtually sell out every night so there isn’t much sense analyzing their data. Including those teams in the data will hide some of the fluctuations. As the season goes on, analyzing their attendance will be very easy.

Half the league virtually sells out the season. The teams I’ve eliminated from the data set that have averaged over 99% capacity are Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, Edmonton, Montreal, NY Rangers, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington, Winnipeg. If your team is on this list…be proud!!! So that leaves these following teams that had attendance volatility during the 2011-12 season: Anaheim, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, NY Islanders, Ottawa, Phoenix, St. Louis, Tampa Bay. I should quickly point out that the Ottawa numbers are debatable. I read that Scotiabank Place has a capacity of 19153 for hockey but several times last year the Senators drew 20,500 six times during the season so I used 20,500 as max capacity. If anyone has some insight here feel free to share. I had similar issues with Minnesota and used their max capacity as 19,290.

Of the 15 teams with Attendance volatility, the Kings, Blues and Nashville have highest occupancy rate, over 97% (all three of them were playoff teams). Remember that would put them 16th – 18th for occupancy rate so it isn’t as great as it sounds. The lowest occupancy rate was Phoenix (surprise), Dallas and Columbus.


With the same data set, I wanted to see what games (#s) have the lowest occupancy rate.

In an 82 game season, the lowest attended games are Games 3,4,5,2 & 7. Listed in order with game 3 having the lowest occupancy (77%).


Isolating some of the more interesting teams attendance you can see the crazy volatility.


I imagine we will see a huge increase in attendance for the Stars and Coyotes. Stars have re-stabilized the team and their fan base while the Coyotes had a great playoff run and appear to have an owner right around the corner (yes, I know you’ve heard that before).

There are a host of other factors to consider when digging into these numbers such as Giveaways, promotions, price points, opponents etc. I am sure the teams look at this in detail but I don’t have access to this information so I kept it simple and consistent.

One thing I did not do was try to understand the impact of giveaways, special promotions, like entertainment competition (i.e. Football, Baseball). The fact that NHL is starting this year clears the way of competition they face in the fall. Ever wonder why NBC Network (not Sports) doesn’t really start carrying games until Jan/Feb? Football.

Let me know your thoughts.

3 thoughts on “Attendance Volatility of the 2011-12 NHL season

  1. That’s some very through work and interesting findings! I really think that Seattle, along with Quebec, need to be the first teams that get an NHL franchise. I think that your findings show that some teams really ned to be relocated as they are just not getting enough fans regularly into their arenas. I saw something the other day that said the Coyotes were nowhere near selling out last night’s game and were selling some tickets between $4 and $16!

  2. The Coyotes are the big elephant in the room. They reported 8,355 in attendance last night compared to 11,051 for their 2nd game last year…which was also a mid-week game. The next three games should be revealing for the coyotes: Last year games 3-5 fluctuated between 7,000 and 7,500. Not having an owner has really hurt the attendance. The year after the NHL took the team over, attendance dropped by 20% 610,000 people to 492,000.

    I will start to look at ticket prices in the coming weeks but here is something of interest. According to Forbes, Buffalo Sabers has a cheaper average ticket price than Florida and Columbus even though they had virtual sell outs.

    I agree that Quebec City and Seattle should be the first teams to get an NHL Franchise, probably in that order.

  3. You can also pin the Coyotes problems on the typical “not one of Jerry’s teams” of Phoenix media. I went to the website for the Arizona Republic today to see their take on the Sullivan hat-trick, and two goals by Ekman-Larsson. Not a word (at least on the front of the sports page). Baseball and Suns…those are the priorities. It’s almost like the media there don’t want the team to succeed.

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