NHL Fans Have Left the Building
Mark Spector, National Post
The National Hockey League has always played fast and loose with the fans and media over the word "attendance." And while under the league's revenue- based salary-cap system, it does not behoove the NHL to spin gate receipts, the latest numbers do not paint a positive picture.Aaaah, yes they do and I fear if the Gary Bettman reign of error lasts much longer those presently hanging on may soon turn up missing also.
In a confidential NHL document obtained by the National Post, the league's overall gate receipts climbed just 4.9% through Dec. 31, despite an average ticket price hike of 5.9% across the league this season.
More alarming is the fact that gate receipts are down in nine U.S. markets, which means in a gate-driven league with negligible U.S. TV deals, more than one-third of the 24 American clubs are not making as much money in ticket sales as they were last season -- despite higher prices in most cases.
To the scouts, media, players and coaches who travel the circuit, the league's latest PR spin -- an announcement last week that NHL clubs drew, on average, crowds of 17,075 to games in January of 2007, giving the league its best month in the NHL's 89-year history -- approached desperation. The people who see the thousands of empty seats in many U.S. arenas know the real score.