NHL Struggling With Attendance

NHL Attendance From Previous Games

NHL AttendanceBuffalo @ New Jersey – 10,567
Columbus Blue @ New York – 10,184
Florida @ Atlanta – 10,584
Dallas @ Boston (On a Saturday) – 14,576
Chicago at Columbus (On a Saturday) – 14,680
Ottawa @ Florida – 13,567
Vancouver @ Los Angeles – 13,652
Anaheim @ Columbus – 10,494
Calgary @ Nashville – 12,042
Minnesota @ Florida – 12,106

Total Pro Sports – These are just a handful of games that have happened over the past couple weeks. As you will notice none of the home teams listed are from Canada. Canadians love the game of hockey so regardless of their teams record they sell out every game.

Looking at these numbers it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that the NHL is struggling not only in a sinking economy but in markets that should not have an NHL team.

Is anybody tired of hearing Gary Bettman tell us all the NHL is fine and is not struggling to gain attendance, new fans and money? If he didn’t want us to know how bad of a state hockey is in the U.S maybe he shouldn’t publish attendance records on his site.

Over the past 6 weeks the Canadian dollar has been sinking, only making a recent surge. This has hurt Canadian teams, as they earn revenue in Canadian dollars and pay out player salaries, in US greenbacks.

We have heard over the past few years about rumblings of NHL expansion to places such as Winnipeg, Quebec City, Toronto and the Hamilton area. Each time these rumblings get discussed we hear that annoying commissioner of the NHL tell us why it wouldn’t work. Bettman has said in the past that Winnipeg doesn’t have an arena big enough ( Well they have a 15,000 plus arena and would sell out every night).

With the declining Canadian dollar it may be feasible for the NHL to lower the cap and maybe split TV revenue with all teams, like the NFL does. I think it is very important to expand back into Canada, Gary Bettman over the years has tried expanding into smaller US markets and it hasn’t worked. It’s time to move back to where the game started.

Ideas For The Future NHL

1. The NHL needs to be the first North American Sports League to expand to Europe. With the sagging World economy it will be tough move, but this is something that should be done within the next 5 years. The reasons are simple, why have a team in Nashville when you can have an arena full in Prague, Stockholm or Helsinki?

The Euro is stronger than the US dollar, so ticket prices could be less in order to ensure the NHL doesn’t price themselves out of the market. Players will complain that the travel is too much and that they don’t want to live in Europe. Expand enough teams to make a division there and have one trip made out to Europe per Year, perhaps shorten the season by 6 games, and when teams go over to Europe give them a few days off. For the European teams it will be even harder, as they will have to come to North America more often. So make their road trips long, put them in the eastern conference where they will have to travel 6-7 hours to get to, and have them have one big road trip where they play all the west coast teams at once. Players will complain until they see how much more money they would make, not to mention that many European owners of sports teams often pay the taxes for the players, hence why Jaromir Jagr is making such a ridiculous salary with Omsk.

2. The NHL needs to go back into Canada, with Winnipeg and Toronto being the first and maybe only two cities to come too. It’s obvious Toronto can support 2 NHL teams, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later. Small market teams in Canada and perhaps all Canadian teams considering how much Toronto pays in revenue sharing, should also be given the opportunity by the government to lower the land tax that they pay. At last check Montreal’s land taxes on the Bell Center were more than all the US teams combined and other Canadian teams were also paying a ridiculous amount. This is unacceptable. The NHL should bargain with the government. If you make it easier financially on Canadian teams we will pursue more NHL teams here, which will open up more employment, more excitement, etc, etc… Not to mention this would be a great public relations move by both the NHL and the Canadian government to Canadians.

3. The NHL should look at a Champions League type tournament. Now traditionalists will not like this idea, but with the expansion of the KHL, and the NHL’s need for publicity and forward advancement, nothing is better than this idea. People who follow soccer and specifically the Champions League will love this idea because the Champions league is possibly the greatest club sports tournament in the world. Basically the Champions League is a tournament of the best soccer clubs across Europe played to find out which club is the best in Europe. Many of you will say well the NHL is the best league; yes the winner may come from the NHL, but upsets happen and it’s more about exposure of the game than anything. Having the Hockey Champions league in Asia coukld help gain fans from that untapped market. Have the top 2-3 teams from all major sports leagues, including the AHL play each other in a tournament in September instead of a training camp. If this isn’t feasible, get international corporations to sponsor the idea, who will then offer big prize money to the winning owner and winning team. Players will be enthusiastic on the idea for monetary reasons and for pride and same goes with the owners. This idea has been brushed aside in the past but it should at least be given consideration.

4. The NHL needs to look outside the box on ways of giving it positive publicity the same way it looks outside the box on rule changes. The NHL recently moved the General Manager meetings to after the trade deadline. It use to happen a week before the trade deadline, and often was heavily attended by American media and got people interested in the game. The NHL should have moved the meetings to during the trade deadline. Not only would huge attention be put on this move, but it would garner huge positive publicity. Instead the NHL listened to old, out of date General Managers, who didn’t want the distraction of the media and therefore have moved it to a time when no one will care, shame on the NHL for that.

The way I see it, the NHL is being way to laisse faire concerning this attendance catastrophe and also the sagging economy, if any of the major sports leagues needs to be working extra right hard right now, it’s the NHL.

Stay tuned,

Tags: Canada, Champions League, Europe, Gary Bettman, hockey, NHL, Omsk, Toronto, u.s.a, Winnipeg,