Is the NHL Lockout Helping AHL Attendance?

Scott Reynolds
November 07 2012 08:53AM


Photo by 5of7 via Wikimedia Commons

One of the things that I was most curious about coming into the lockout was how minor league hockey would fare with no NHL games being played. On the one hand, you know that the league will be filled with better players, and in some cases (like Oklahoma City), the team will be able to market some of the best young players in the game. On the other hand, hockey will be even more under the radar generally, and fans generally don't care much for work stoppages. So is AHL attendance up or is it down so far this season?

It isn't going to be one answer for every team, of course, but when we compare each team's first few games to the first few games they played at home last season, attendance is generally up:

Three of the five big winners are teams playing very close to Canadian NHL markets. This doesn't come as a big surprise, but it does suggest to me that Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr have absolutely nothing to worry about in Canada once this lockout is finally over. Interestingly, if we remove the four Canadian cities (Abbotsford, Hamilton, St. John's and Toronto) from the mix, the overall gain in attendance drops to 3.5%, which means that just over half the gain is coming from these three cities.

I've been following the attendance patterns in Oklahoma City for a while now, and these numbers really don't look good at all. The team is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the lockout with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, and Justin Schutlz (and now Taylor Hall) all taking a regular shift for the club, and yet attendance is still down significantly compared to the same set of games last season. At this point, I've got to think that the Oilers must be considering a move.

Previously by Scott Reynolds

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#1 Kent Wilson
November 07 2012, 10:28AM
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Im surprised the effect is so muted. AHL is a damn hard sell, even when there's no better option and the teams boast more stars than usual.

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#2 garik16
November 07 2012, 10:35AM
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Note: Not sure how you're dealing with Bridgeport data - they just had two sellouts....but had free admission because of Sandy, which probably inflated things.

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#4 Derek Zona
November 07 2012, 03:23PM
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How in the world did OKC's attendance drop? It was perilously low to begin with and they have the Tambellini Rebuild Plan playing there.

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#5 Neal
November 08 2012, 02:03PM
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Derek Zona wrote:

How in the world did OKC's attendance drop? It was perilously low to begin with and they have the Tambellini Rebuild Plan playing there.

Oklahoma City is a dead hockey market. A solid local economy, new business driven, and becoming more youthful. The hockey team has gone completely the other direction.

A) The team's ownership is committed to the plan they have set forth, despite that plan failing and moving backwards.

B) The growing newness and increasingly valuable NBA brand overshadows nearly every sport. (NOTE: Even the brand power of local CFB teams has decreased slightly. That's uncommon in these parts).

Thanks for highlighting these #'s Scott.

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#6 Derek Zona
November 08 2012, 07:15PM
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@Neal

"A) The team's ownership is committed to the plan they have set forth, despite that plan failing and moving backwards."

What plan is that?

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#7 Neal
November 09 2012, 07:09AM
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Derek Zona wrote:

"A) The team's ownership is committed to the plan they have set forth, despite that plan failing and moving backwards."

What plan is that?

That plan is......to spend on ad $$'s in areas that "used" to be successful. Commit to keeping ticket prices low, but not evaluating its full value (bang for buck). Marketing a brand that no one recognizes, when the players are the highest selling point. Pretending they aren't in a competition with other neighborhood sports. Accepting mediocrity as "okay" because the city is getting their slice. I could go on and on, but that's a start.

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