Bettman comments on the “E” word

If you are in Seattle, before you read this piece, say three times out loud: “There are no guarantees. There are no guarantees. There are no guarantees.”

Gary Bettman was speaking at the Prime Time Sports Management Conference in Toronto this morning where Yahoo NHL reporter, Nick Cotsonika, captured this nugget from the Commissioner.

Bettman says NHL is not looking at formal expansion process.

— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) November 11, 2013

This drove me and probably only me into a frenzy on the use of the word “formal”. (I felt like John Cusack in High Fidelity) I immediately speculated that they will just announce any expansion team or teams. There will be no biding war of cities. The league knows which locations can been successful and what is good for the league (i.e. TV).  Prospective owners will “apply” behind the scenes and the NHL will vet the location and owners for viability. I was hanging a lot on the inclusion of one word in a tweet. Could I be right? Bettman always chooses his words wisely and I thought this was very deliberate on his part. And then Nick confirmed after the talk:

Boom…well not that big of a deal but let’s get into it. Clearly the NHL will approve and process everything behind the scenes. What gets me excited is connecting all the dots over the last 6 months or so from the league:

Exhibit 1: Elliotte Friedman reports Seattle was plan B for Coyotes & the NHL blocked Vancouver from relocating their AHL team to Seattle.

Exhibit 2: Bill Daly says Northwest would get ‘serious consideration’ for new team,

Exhibit 3: Back in April, Bettman was talking with reporters and he kind of tipped his hand a bit when being asked about Seattle. For the record, this is the first time I’ve heard Bettman even mention Seattle and he certainly slipped a bit here.

Asked about Seattle as a potential NHL market in general, Bettman spoke highly.

“The research I’ve seen tells me that it would be a very strong hockey market,” Bettman said. “I haven’t looked at it in detail, but it’s all anecdotal and third hand. Obviously if there were a team in Seattle, it might foster a pretty decent rivalry with the northern neighbor, namely Vancouver.”

There was a pause and awkward silence after that. Bettman seemed to realize how that might come across, not only because of the Coyotes, but because of a new realignment of the league that seems destined for 32 teams.

“But that doesn’t mean that anybody should take from that comment that we’re necessarily focused on Seattle or we’re planning on expanding there,” Bettman added quickly. “You asked the question about Seattle. I wouldn’t have raised it. But it’s obviously an interesting market.

Dots connected. There are a lot of dependencies and conditions here so let’s take a deep breadth and appreciate being part of the conversation and remember….

There are no guarantees.

There are no guarantees.

There are no guarantees.

October NHL Attendance

With this first month of the season wrapping up on Thursday, I figure it would be a good time to revisit one of my favorite topics of NHL attendance.

Let me state this up front, the purpose of writing this up is not to determine who could be a relocate target. Anyone that has been here and has followed me on twitter and the facebook know I’ve never advocated for relocating the Coyotes to Seattle. I am a fan of the game and believe it can survive anywhere. The analysis, commentary or any other narrative below is not intended to slam any team, owners and most importantly the fans. It is simply analysis on data that is reported for every game. Calling out Phoenix, St. Louis or Florida is only because they have some of the most volatile attendance and therefore provide more interesting data to review.

League Wide:

  • 11 teams have seen increase in attendance from October 2011 compared to 4 teams with a drop.
  • Average Attendance is up 2% against October attendance of 2011.
  • # of Saturday games in October was down from 54 games in 2011-12 season to 46 Saturday games this season. This is important because teams that do not sellout every game tend to draw 5 to 10% higher with a Saturday game. The reason for the lower # of Saturday games is because 2011 had five Saturdays in the month versus four in 2013.

DOW Graph

Team Specific:

  • Dallas, Phoenix, Columbus & Los Angeles are all up double digits % wise compared to October 2011.
  • Dallas is up a big 56% thanks to stable ownership. October 2011 was a time period where the team was going through the bankruptcy process.
  • Phoenix is up an impressive 17% under the new ownership group that was stabilized over this last summer. (Soap Box time: this could be the worst axe grinding article I have ever read. The owners had less than 4 months to ramp up with a plan and the writer points to Halloween night as an example of how they are doing? Poor reporting if you ask me.)
  • Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Florida & St. Louis are the only franchises down compared to October 2011. Ottawa & Tampa Bay are still averaging over 18,000 a night which is better than half the league.
  • 16 of 30 teams have sold out every game through October.

teambyteamOctober

Note Buffalo and New York Rangers are down slightly but that is only because of Arena modifications that lowered overall capacity. (Correction: Buffalo did not have arena modifications. They are down 2% since October 2011.)

Here are a couple other cuts at the data that tell some interesting stories.

Coyotes

Coyotes- by Game numnber

Coyotes-DOW

Coyotes are out performing October 2011 on Tuesday and Thursdays but lagging on Saturdays. You can chalk that up to the matchups, Edmonton games draw poorly in Phoenix. Coyotes also had a tough scheduled game with Nashville on Halloween where they only drew 7,400 people which was the lowest attended game for the year. That was the only game under 10,000 compared to 4 out of the first 7 games of 2011-12 that were under 10,000.

All in all, the Phoenix attendance story should be viewed as very positive. Florida on the other hand is really performing poorly. In spite of some favorable opponents (for Attendance sake) they are really having a tough time drawing fans. Below is the table that shows how Florida traditionally draws against the opponents they faced in October. With the exception of Pittsburgh, all games drew less than they have in either of the last 2 years.

FLAOpponent TableOne thing that I should point out is that Florida tends to draw the best in December and January so the table above might have several December and January games to compare.

Florida Attendance 2013

As a whole, the NHL had a great October and it will be interesting to look if the momentum continues and the impacts to the new division alignment and scheduling.

Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts. There is a lot of data to comb through and could bore people to death with my analysis so thought I would stop before I do.