League-wide attendance down 2.5 percent compared to 08-09 season

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emptyseats.jpgA couple days ago, I discussed the many great signs the NHL can take from the 2010 playoffs. It’s not all puppy dogs and fairy tales for the league, though, as James Mirtle points out that league-wide attendance went down 2.5 percent last season compared to the 2008-09 campaign. To put it in another way, each team averaged 400 less fans.

He are some other interesting details from The Globe and Mail article.

The majority of the NHL’s biggest attendance drops this season came in warm weather cities, with seven of the 10 “sunbelt” franchises among the 12 teams with a 1.6 per cent or more dip. The average sunbelt team had 15,371 fans per game this season, down an average of 5.2 per cent from 16,185 and well off the league average of 17,072.

The average Canadian franchise had 18,957 fans per game, with only the Senators down significantly (3.6 per cent). The average U.S. franchise outside of the sunbelt (basically Denver, Midwest and Northeast) had 17,480 fans per game.

The success stories this past season in the sunbelt were the Kings, Sharks and Predators, who all did relatively all right at the gate compared to a year earlier. The two non-sunbelt franchises struggling the most were the Islanders and Avalanche.

There’s some reason for concern in Denver, too, given how well the team did.

As Mirtle pointed out, the Phoenix Coyotes ownership crisis had the biggest negative influence on league-wide attendance numbers.

Mirtle listed seven NHL teams with an increase in attendance (listed in order from highest jump to lowest jump): Los Angeles, Boston, St. Louis, Vancouver, Washington, Pittsburgh and San Jose. There were four teams without a change: Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Buffalo. The rest had at least a marginal loss. Chicago’s losses might not seem to make sense, but that was more about arena changes (like capacity) than anything else.

Here is a screen shot of the teams on the “minus” end: (click to enlarge)


What does this say about the league? Well, for one, it reinforces some obvious truths. “Non-traditional” markets need a “winner” to sell tickets more than a traditional market (though naturally that helps no matter what). The Colorado Avalanche have a way to go before they re-gain their status as one of the most popular professional sports teams in their area. Finally, the Phoenix Coyotes really need to resolve that whole “franchise in limbo” thing.

This doesn’t mean the sky is falling, just that reality must counteract some of the abundant positivity. The NHL still has a way to go, but perhaps the league can continue to take advantage of its considerable momentum.

Stars to scratch Nichushkin after rough outing versus Avs?

Craig Anderson
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Looks as though slumping Dallas winger Valeri Nichushkin could be a healthy scratch tonight when the Stars host the Oilers at American Airlines.

Per the Morning-News, Nichushkin — who barely played in the second and third periods of Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Colorado — is likely to be replaced by Colton Sceviour in the lineup.

Stars head coach Lindy Ruff was fuming after the Avs defeat, calling it “embarrassing, worse than disappointing.” It didn’t take a genius to realize one of the players in his doghouse was Nichushkin, who had just 2:02 of ice time in the second period and 3:24 in the third.

Yesterday, Ruff dropped Nichushkin to the fourth line in practice.

“I’ve been trying to help him by shifting him around,” the head coach explained. “He had some struggles early in camp on right wing, so I put him on left, and he doesn’t seem real comfortable at left right now.

“His game, everything has got to get a little bit quicker.”

The 10th overall pick in 2013, Nichushkin has struggled to build on the form shown in his rookie campaign, when he scored 14 goals and 34 points in 79 contests.

He missed nearly all of last season with a linger hip ailment and has been a virtual non-factor through the first two games this year.

Report: Teams ‘screaming bloody murder’ about Richards settlement

Mike Richards
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When the Los Angeles Kings announced they’d settled with Mike Richards, it didn’t take long for the accusations of salary-cap circumvention to materialize.

And though NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was adamant that the settlement was “far from” circumvention, apparently not everyone agrees with the league in that regard.

“Privately, other teams are screaming bloody murder and are threatening to make an issue about it at December’s Board of Governors’ meeting,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports.

Friedman goes into more detail in his story, so click the link to read more.

But remember how we wrote that the issue in this case was precedent, and that the “NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door”?

Well, one agent posed a good question to Friedman: “What’s to stop other teams from trying this?”