The Atlantic Division contains teams that are on the cusp of the Stanley Cup and also teams that are the middle of rebuilding. Attendance will definitely fluctuate depending on the how good a team is at home, and the Atlantic has a few great examples of how different factors can also come into play for the home crowds.
The Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins all reported sellouts for all of their home games, but the crowds inside the arena differed greatly.
The Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, and Ottawa Senators are all in different situations. From underwhelming on-ice results, perpetually empty seats, and even off-ice issues, these three teams show how attendance can depend on where a team is at in terms of playoff-readiness.
Read on to see how the Atlantic Division fared in terms of attendance in 2017-18.
Arena Attendance Charts
The following charts indicate reported attendances throughout the season for each arena, as per hockey-reference.com. For a how-to on reading these charts, please refer to the explanation here. Charts are listed in order of seating capacity.
The Bell Centre is the largest arena in the league by seating capacity at 21,302. The Montreal Canadiens should have theoretically had a full arena backing them up all season long. However, with their continual on-ice woes, the crowd was actually thinner than what the graph suggests. This is likely due to the reported data for the Bell Centre being ticket sales rather than attendance. A different data source may show actual attendance, but in the meantime, at least the sellout streak continues.
Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings, playing in the brand new Little Caesars Arena had a sellout streak through the entirety of the season. All 19,515 seats were sold for the Red Wings’ home games. The new venue managed to draw fans in regardless of how the Red Wings’ season was going, and more often than not, empty seats seen were really just reflective of people heading to the new arena to enjoy the concourse.
Down south in Florida, there were two stories being told. For the Florida Panthers, they managed to be the only team in the league to not sellout at least one game. For playing in the sixth-largest arena in the NHL, that makes it an awful lot of empty seats. On average, they had crowds of 13,851. Their highest sold game was during the winter holidays, where a game against the Montreal Canadiens drew numbers of 18,013, which was still over one thousand shy of a sellout. Crowd support or not, the Panthers still managed to put up an solid home record, which includes a nine game win streak to end their campaign.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The other Florida story falls on the absolute opposite side of the spectrum, the Tampa Bay Lightning had sellouts for every single game. The Lightning and Panthers can not possibly differ anymore than going 0/41 and 41/41 for sellouts. The Lightning put on a show for their home crowd en route to their clinching the conference.
The Buffalo Sabres managed eight sellout games during their season, and had strong numbers throughout. On average, they had 18,009 out of 19,070. Given how poorly their season went, that’s still highly respectable. Their lowest attended game was reported at 16,530, which occurred during a mid-February game against the Lightning. During the Stadium Series against the New York Rangers, the crowd was 41,821 strong.
Toronto Maple Leafs
How did attendance affect the Maple Leafs? They had sellout numbers for the whole season playing out of the Air Canada Centre. Standing-room numbers were reported, and it turns out the Leafs were over the capacity of 18,800 for all 41 games. Their lowest attendance was 18,846 during an end-of-season game against Buffalo. The home-opener drew the largest numbers for the Leafs, with 19,621 people in attendance. The Maple Leafs will probably continue sellout out their games in the newly renamed Scotiabank Arena.
The Boston Bruins had sellout numbers for the whole season. The TD Garden has a capacity of 17,565, and with the full crowd, the Bruins thrived. They were the only team in the Atlantic to have single-digit regulation losses at home—only four other teams in the league managed that feat.
The Ottawa Senators really didn’t fare too well in terms of attendance. Recall that they literally reduced the seating capacity of the Canadian Tire Centre with the infamous black tarps. What was supposed to be a seating capacity of 18,500 instead was reduced to 17,373. Even with the reduction, they only managed to sell out three games out in Kanata. On December 16, the Senators hosted the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL 100 Classic, playing out of the TD Place Stadium. The crowd that day was 33,959 strong.
The Atlantic boasted five teams out of eight with sellout numbers for the 2017-18 season, having the best ratio in the NHL. Attendance, however, can fluctuate with team performance as seen in Montreal, or concourse perusal as seen in Detroit.
Both Florida and Ottawa had serious attendance problems that will hopefully resolve as the teams become more consistent at being competitive. Florida seems well on the way in that regard. Ottawa, on the other hand, may be in for a few more years of misery before their arena starts filling up again.
The Final Word
Attendance is a sure sign of how well hockey is doing in any given city. Some teams have seemingly invincible hockey markets that are consistent through thick and thin, while others have fans that are tired of waiting for good hockey to come to their city.
Watching an NHL hockey game in person is always an experience. Some may be good, some may be bad, but it’s generally agreed that heading to an arena to watch a live game is a great way to enjoy the sport of hockey.
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.