It’s probably not much of a surprise to most hockey fans. In fact, it was probably to be expected. NHL attendance is down from the previous non-pandemic season of 2019-20. By some estimates, it’s down as much as 10% across the league, and much more in many locations.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently published attendance figures for each of the league’s 32 teams for the first two weeks of the season. According to the Review-Jornal, the average announced crowd in the NHL was 17,408 during the 2019-20 season (pre-pandemic). It’s 15,728 this season as of last Wednesday morning, a drop of 9.65 percent.
According to the Review-Journal, only three teams have seen their attendance rise over pre-pandemic levels: The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Vancouver Canucks (who played one home game before Wednesday) and the Boston Bruins. The Washington Capitals’ reported figures are the same. Every other team’s is down, except the Islanders, who don’t have their home opener until Nov. 20.
The decline in attendance means the end to some fairly impressive sellout streaks around the league. The Pittsburgh Penguins lost their 633-game sellout streak Oct. 16. The Chicago Blackhawks lost their 535-game sellout streak last Sunday. The Nashville Predators lost their 192-game sellout streak last Tuesday.
North America is by no means out of the woods with regards to the pandemic, and the affects of its two-year presence remain. The virus is still very much prevalent, unemployment remains high in many areas, and attending games at arenas is anything but normal in most cases. It may take another full season to begin discussing terms such as “normal” with regards to attendance at NHL arenas across North America.
By Jon Sorensen