As the 2018-19 NHL regular season draws closer and closer, the excitement amongst fans is reaching an offseason high. Which team in the league has the most fans willing to make their way to their local arena and watch NHL hockey in person night in and night out? To get a better idea, I decided to break down NHL arena attendance throughout last season.
Thirty one teams faced off against each other from October through April, trying to earn their way into the playoffs. Playing in the same-sized rinks with the same-sized nets and the same dimensions, the similarities between venues virtually end there. The main exploration here are the fans—particularly just how many of them attended each game in each arena.
Arena Attendance Charts
To see how teams fared in terms of home crowd support, a data visualisation of arena attendance was created based on home games for each team. To start things off, let’s take a look at the eight teams playing out of the Pacific Division.
How to read the charts
The charts go clockwise from the first home game in October all the way to the 41st home game in April (sometimes March). Each bar represents the reported attendance for that specific game as per hockey-reference.com. The radius of each bar is relative to the maximum capacity of the Bell Centre in Montreal, which has a listed capacity of 21,302 seats.
Dark-coloured bars indicate reported sellouts, and light-coloured bars indicate that there were empty seats in the arena that night. Not accounted for in these charts are standing room attendance, in which if a team reports a greater than full capacity, the attendance was charted as if it was a seating capacity sellout.
On the sidebar to the right, visiting teams are listed and also indicate whether the game was a sellout or not. Lastly, the win/loss record of the home team is shown on the inside of the plot, with indicators for games ending in overtime (*) and shootouts (**).
The Calgary Flames play in the largest arena in the Pacific. The Scotiabank Saddledome has a capacity of 19,289, which is the fifth largest capacity in the league. In 41 home games, the Flames sold out 14 times, and came close to selling out every other game as well. The average attendance was 18,905, with a season-low of 17,839 occuring in eighth home game of the season against the New Jersey Devils. The Flames won that game 5-4 in a shootout to the delight of the small early November crowd.
Next up, the Vancouver Canucks have the second highest capacity in the Pacific. The Rogers Arena seats 18,865. Similarly to the Flames, the Canucks also sold out 14 games during their season, with the victory lap of the Sedins likely playing a role in those end of season sellouts. The average attendance was 17,550 for the Canucks. The lowest was 15,589, which happened during the third home game of the season. The Winnipeg Jets beat the Canucks 4-2 that night.
In one of the newest arenas in the league, the Edmonton Oilers consistently sold out Rogers Place, bringing in 18,347 attendees every single game, win or lose. Fans made their way to the Ice District for every single game, impressive considering how frigid Edmonton’s winter was last year.
Los Angeles Kings
Coming in fourth in Pacific Division arena size, the Los Angeles Kings had a nightly attendance of 18,230 in the Staples Center. All 41 games were sold out. The Kings at times reported higher numbers, likely due to standing room tickets with a season high of 18,443.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks played 20 sold out games in the SAP Center. On nights that they didn’t sellout the arena, they still came close more often than not. The average attendance was 17,331, with the lowest showing in the Shark Tank coming in at 16,411 in a mid-November loss to the Florida Panthers.
Vegas Golden Knights
If there was any doubt on whether the Vegas Golden Knights would be a hockey town, the numbers make it pretty obvious that there shouldn’t be. They sold out every single game they played in the T-Mobile Arena. If anyone needed a reminder, they won most of those games in front of their 17,500 fans too.
The Anaheim Ducks had 18 sellouts in the Honda Center last season. Despite selling out nearly half of their games, their average attendance on the season was 16,592, a significant deviation away from a full crowd of 17,174. Their lowest turnout was 14,553 in mid-October, a game in which they beat the New York Islanders.
In the smallest arena in the Pacific Division and fifth smallest in the league, the Arizona Coyotes managed to sellout just four games. Their average attendance was an abysmal 13,028, in which many times often saw the away team drawing a large fan base as well. Their lowest attended game had just 10,203 people in the crowd, who all witnessed a crushing defeat at the hands of the Florida Panthers right before the holidays.
The Pacific Division boasts some pretty exciting teams to watch with extremely loyal fans to boot. Aside from Arizona, the crowd turnout is generally pretty good. Three of eight teams played in front of sold out arenas for their home games throughout the season: the Oilers, Kings, and Golden Knights.
An average night in the Saddledome was just shy of a sold out Rogers Arena; the lowest attended night still surpassed the maximum capacity of the Gila River Arena. The Coyotes are really the only Pacific team to struggle in terms of crowd support.
Hockey is definitely alive and well in the Pacific Division. The arms race this offseason that saw several of these teams get upgrades should only increase attendance for the coming year.
With the last Stanley Cup won by a Pacific team being the Kings back in 2014, there is little doubt that as these divisional rivals battle throughout the season for playoffs spots, their eager fans will certainly come out in droves in support.
Arena Attendance Series Part 2: The Central Division
Arena Attendance Series Part 3: The Metropolitan Division
Arena Attendance Series Part 4: The Atlantic Division
All data obtained via hockey-reference.com.
Note: While numbers are listed as attendance, it may be the case that the numbers actually reflect ticket sales.
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