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Volume 23 No. 13
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Playoff drives, player accomplishments fuel team attendance figures

Jamie Benn’s quest for the scoring title helped keep Stars fans coming back.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Two-thirds of the NHL’s 30 teams saw increased or flat attendance this year compared with last season, with several of the league’s biggest gains coming in less traditional hockey markets.

NHL teams collectively averaged 17,444 fans per game this year, down 0.2 percent from a 17,472 average last season, according to data compiled by SportsBusiness Journal. Chicago finished as the league leader for a seventh consecutive year, averaging 21,769 fans per game. Montreal (21,287) and Detroit (20,027) ranked second and third, with each of the three

clubs playing to 100 percent or more of arena capacity for the season.

Leaguewide, 12 teams played to 98 percent or more of capacity for all 41 of their 2014-15 home games.

Among the gainers, Dallas saw the biggest increase at the gate this year, up 12.5 percent and building off the Stars’ playoff appearance last year. Dallas failed to qualify for the postseason this year, but the Stars did improve their record by one point, and forward Jamie Benn captured the league’s scoring title in the final game of the season, providing some positive momentum going into next season.

Click HERE for complete stats on the 2014-15 NHL regular season

The New York Islanders (in their final season at the Nassau Coliseum and once again a playoff team) and the St. Louis Blues (winners of the Central Division) had the next two highest attendance increases, up 10.2 percent and 6.0 percent, respectively.

{podcast}

NHL Wrap-Around Podcast:
NHL writer Ian Thomas and Alex Silverman discuss the Toronto Maple Leafs' front-office shakeup and rebuild, as well as attendance numbers from the regular season and the NHL and NBC's marketing plans for the playoffs.

Columbus, host of this year’s All-Star Game, saw a 5.5 percent increase.

On the flip side, two teams stood out in regard to significant attendance drops from last year. The Florida Panthers had the biggest decrease at the gate, down 22.4 percent. While the team flirted with the playoffs before ultimately falling short, the hefty drop was not necessarily because of the on-ice play. Instead, the decline draws in large part from a change in ticketing strategy by the team’s new ownership group, led by Vincent Viola, who acquired the team in September 2013. The Panthers stopped distributing free and discounted tickets to games, an action the team has said may have boosted attendance in previous years but subsequently diminished the value of the team’s tickets, including those held by season-ticket holders.

The other double-digit decline this season came from the Carolina Hurricanes, who had a drop of 17.9 percent from last year. The Hurricanes were firmly out of the playoff race for the majority of this season, the sixth straight year the team failed to qualify for the postseason.

The Arizona Coyotes had the third-greatest decline, at 3.1 percent. On the ice, Arizona also missed the playoffs this year, winning only 11 of its 41 home games and finishing with the NHL’s second-worst record across the league.