December NHL Attendance Report

December attendance numbers are in. As a whole, NHL attendance was relatively flat for December when comparing to December of 2011. 10 teams had declines from December of 2011 while only 4 teams had increases. St. Louis, Florida & Columbus are down double digits and only the Islanders & Coyotes were up double digits in December.

When looking at the first three months though December, NHL Attendance is still up 1% which is very good considering half the teams have been at max capacity for a while leaving very little room to grow. Dallas and Phoenix continue to be the stalwarts of growth compared to fall of 2011, up 19% and 16% respectively. As fans of these teams will admit, this is largely due to the fact that both teams had the most room to improve. Regardless, growth and progress should be commended as turnarounds don’t happen overnight.

St. Louis continues to struggle with a decline of 12% from 2011. If it is any consolation, St. Louis is still averaging 16.7K per game and is 19th in the league in total attendance which is still a healthy number. Going back further, St. Louis has some of the highest variability from season to season in the league. In 06-07 they averaged only 12,521 but peaked 4 years later at 19,150. If there are any St. Louis locals with some theories on why the drop, I am all ears.

NHLattendance

Below is little more analysis on some of the more interesting attendance stories in the league.

Phoenix Coyotes

Coyotes

From an opponent perspective, the Coyotes will suffer a bit from reduction in Red Wings visits to Glendale. They have not seen some of the heavy hitters come through their barn. Specifically, Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh are some of the bigger draws for the Coyotes games and are all schedule to come in the second half of the season. The Flyers did visit Glendale on the 4th of January and attendance was right at their 3 year average with 14,875. Looking ahead at January, it might be a little light month with several lighter draw teams coming to town: Calgary, New Jersey & Toronto go through Phoenix in January.

If you look at the game # by game # basis you can see they are trending higher.

Coyotes Game number

Dallas Stars

Stars

It is very interesting looking at the Dallas Stars dashboard compared to the Coyotes. Both seeing growth but their data tells two different stories. The Coyotes, are seeing the highest attendance over the last 4 years in every month of the year. Meanwhile, Dallas is still below 2009-10 numbers and their December attendance was the lowest in 4 years. The biggest surprise on the Dashboard is the low attendance for the Flyers game. Just 8,567 compared to a historical average of 16,357 when the Flyers are in town. I looked into that game. The game was played on December 7th, a Saturday. Which was also the same day as the Texas – Baylor football game which probably diverted a healthy amount of Texans attention.

Florida Panthers

Panthers

As the graph suggest, the Panthers continue to struggle at the gate. The caveat here is that the Panthers were sold to Vincent Viola in the September. Low attendance is fairly consistent with any ownership changes as transitions are rarely seamless. The rough comparable would be the Dallas Stars in the Fall of 2011. Tom Gaglardi finalized the purchase of the Stars in November in 2011 and the fall of 2011 proved to be the worst attendance on record. The Panthers were not nearly as dire as the Dallas Stars situation but you should expect Florida to bounce back a bit next year.

Any Requests?

I can go on and on with this attendance stuff but not sure you readers want to hear me ramble on an on. If you have any request, please let me know and I can follow up with a separate blog entry.

What does Seattle watch when given a choice between NBC or CBC?

For those that don’t know, Seattle households with Xfinity (Comcast) service, get the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corporation) channel. I don’t have the data, but I believe Comcast has the majority of the market in the area. It is rare that the same game is on NBC/NBCSC and CBC but when it happens, it is the big games like the Stanley Cup Finals or like last Wednesday, for the Winter Classic. So when Steve Lepore tweeted about the NBC Seattle ratings of the Winter Classic I was happy but I also knew that it was a little diluted due to this CBC factor.

I then posed the question to you Facebook followers to get a biased and unscientific sense of how much these ratings were diluted. I say biased because the masses that tune into the Classic are not the hardcore hockey fans. They probably don’t follow the Facebook page and might not even know that CBC exists on Comcast. Thank you all for responding and sharing your opinions. 64 people responded…here are the results and some of the best comments.

winter classic views

One thing is clear, we all hate the 6%ers….ok maybe we are just a little jealous. Here are some of the best comments people left on the facebook page: The CBC watchers are much more adamant about their broadcast choice:

I’m pretty consistent in choosing CBC unless I don’t have a choice. Feel they do a better job and you can see commercials for poutine pizza and McDonalds poutine! -Andy Eide

First and third NBC, intermissions and second CBC. – Pat Fredell

CBC, American coverage of events is so bad it’s offensive, it’s the only reason I pay for cable is for hockey on CBC – Brian Earl

CBC all the way. Doc Emrick makes me want to claw my ears off. LeeAnne Beres

I tend to go wherever Pierre McGuire isn’t. -Matt Ritchie

CBC…better broadcasters. Bar none.  Appreciate NBC showing it though.-Dutch Evans

NBC have to listen to Doc and Eddie O. NBC had good intermission programming. Was going to flip to CBC to catch Don Cherry but forgot. – Rob Iacullo

From Seattle. Watched from the stands. Great  time -JRe Sullivan

Watched at friends (65″ TV) who had Direct TV satellite dish, so NBC.  DVR the game on CBC for repeat viewing -Norm Dupuis

CBC. There is no other option if you’re Canadian. -Darren Marr

CBC. When I can choose, its always Canadian coverage. -Patty Booker

My son and I were watching CBUT-better hockey commentators there and fewer commercials (and the ones that were on were Canadian and funny) -Jane Brosius

Better commentators on CBC?  I think not!  Doc Emrick called the game on NBC.   Can’t get any better than Doc. -Dean Schmitz

NBC. don’t get CBC except for few games not don cherry fan so gotta go with NBC don’t have to listen to don cherry -Aaron Rivers

NBC Doc Emrick is the man – Tom Wiemann

There you have it. Split down the middle. One interesting side note is that with Rodgers Canadian TV deal, CBC might not carry the classic next year, so we might not have a choice next year.

2013 Review: Seattle is now part of the conversation

My second post to this site was “How does a city get an NHL team?”  I posted it just about 2 years ago in January of 2012. It was poorly written and barely read by anyone outside of my household. In that post I laid out 3 pillars in getting a team. The pillars required were 1) An arena, 2) An owner & 3) A team. A strong and motivated ownership group can influence all three of those items. It is really that simple and for the most part, those principles are intact today. I wanted to revisit on how we are tracking against those items and the progress we have made against those pillars in 2013:

An arena:

Where were we on 1/1/2013? The SonicsArena was the highlight of 2012 and to start 2013 this was in great EISshape. The MOU was signed and all the land in the SoDo was purchased. There were a couple outstanding items: Environmental Impact Study & ILWU lawsuit. Neither of them small, but there was a sense of optimism that this was moving through the process with no red flags. I would have given this a grade of B at this time last year based on the progress.

Where are we now? Back in 2013, the preliminary EIS study was published and public feedback session was conducted. The ILWU lawsuit was dismissed and the dismissal upheld in appeal. The preliminary EIS revealed no red flags and Peter Goldman has advocated to throw the EIS out…presumably because the ILWU was not happy with the (lack of) findings. We also saw design iterations with basketball and hockey layouts. Staying true to my conservative approach, until we get the Final EIS report, I refuse give this an A or A-. 2013 Grade: B+

 An owner:

Where were we on 1/1/2013? From an NHL perspective, this was our biggest question mark. We knew Don jamison greeting fan at public hearingLevin was interested in bringing the NHL to Seattle, but the apparent divide between Levin and Hansen left us with a feeling that Levin was no longer in the picture. With no rumors of speculative ownership candidates, this left, us, NHL fans with a little despair. I would have given us an Incomplete Grade to start the year.

Where are we now?  With nowhere to go but up, this is where we improved the most. In the June timeframe, we got wind of a potential ownership group consisting of Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza. They were rumored to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes and then move them to Seattle should the city of Glendale not reach a lease agreement with Gosbee and LeBlanc. We all know that the Coyotes stayed in Glendale, but at least we know there is an interested party in bringing the NHL to Seattle. Fast forward to early December 2013 and low & behold, Jeremy Roenick is now identified as heading a separate ownership group interested in bringing a team to Seattle. Later that same week, Chris Daniels reported that there was a third group interested as well. It should be important to point out that we have never heard directly from any of these potential ownership groups. Bartoszek, Lanza & Roenick have not said a word on the topic which I like to believe is exactly how the NHL wants them to play it out. I give these guys an A for the way their playing it, but I give a slightly lower grade as there is still work to be done and we are all eager to hear how we can help the cause (like the Sonics faithful get from Hansen). 2013 Grade: B

A team:

Where were we on 1/1/2013? At this time last year, Greg Jamison had a deal in place with the League and the City of Glendale.  All he needed to do is pull the money together from his ownership groups by the end of WangJanuary 2013. Basically, the Coyotes were not an options for Seattle and with the contingency of the NBA team, the timing would not have been good for hockey anyway. Just 3 months earlier in October of 2012, the New York Islanders announced a deal to relocate the team to Brooklyn, so that team was off the table. We were also in the midst of a lockout, so any talk about adding teams via expansion when we had a broken financial model would have been laughed at. New Jersey had been struggling financially, but with their new arena, moving was not realistic either. People love to point to Florida as a candidate for relocation, including many of the readers and followers here, but that is highly unlikely. The Florida Panthers’ parent company owns the entire surrounding mall and makes money by driving people to the area, even if they are smaller crowds. Also important to point out is that we did not have the NHL realignment in place at that time, so all conferences were balanced. Wow…that’s a grim picture where we were at last year. Grade last year, solid D

Where are we now? Bettman and the league have finally acknowledged bettman_gary640listening to expansion proposals. The league has dismissed any expansion for the 2014-15 season. I am convinced the league will expand, so that means there will be expansion teams available. Here is a great piece on the criteria of how cities stack up against the criteria laid out by the league which positions Seattle as a top candidate. 2013 Grade: B+

Here is a bunch of extra credit material that others provided for us:

“The research that I have seen tells me that it would be a very strong hockey market. …Obviously if there were a team in Seattle it would create a decent rivalry with their northern neighbor, namely Vancouver.” -Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner

“But I think it’s safe to say we’re very intrigued by the Pacific Northwest generally. Going forward I would expect that to the extent expansion comes into the picture or relocation is needed, I’m sure the Pacific Northwest is going to get serious consideration.” -Bill Daly, NHL Deputy Commissioner

“With the [new] arena in Seattle, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put hockey back into the Seattle/Portland marketplace and we have to make a commitment to that.” – Tim Leiweke, Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment CEO

“There is a big interest of Hockey coming to this market.” – Chris Hansen, SonicsArena

“With how close in proximity Seattle is to Canada and their fan base, plus how hockey-crazy Canadians are, I bet they’d drive down for games and could develop a good rivalry with Vancouver. I still like to go back to the city and with all those great people, it’d definitely be a great destination for an NHL team.” -Brenden Dillon, Former Seattle Thunderbird and current Dallas Star

“That would be really special. When they were discussing all the Phoenix stuff earlier in the summer, that was sort of exciting because it would be great to go back there and play in front of a lot of people who supported you early in your career.” -Thomas Hickey, Former Seattle Thunderbird and current New York Islander