Last week, Kevin highlighted the contentious battle between Ted Leonsis and Ross McKeon over the idea of contraction in the NHL. I think at this point, the NHL is doing just fine (overall profit in the NHL is greater than that in the NBA), so I think contraction is moot, but I’m here to defend the south, the target of McKeon’s proposed contraction.
Looking at the list of proposed contractees, it’s easy to see the generalization. Hockey doesn’t work in the south. Attendence, the best metric of whether or not a sport is working in a specific town, clearly demonstrates that the geographic areas the least interested in hockey are, of course, Chicago, St. Louis, Long Island, New Jersey and Washington, Ted Leonsis’ hood. Since the lockout ended, those are the only teams to show up more than once in the bottom 5 of percentage of tickets sold. Florida and Nashville were there once, while Carolina, Atlanta and Tampa never had years this bad. For the most part, outside of New Jersey, the consistently poorly attended teams have been awful.
In all fairness, this past year featured Florida at the bottom, but it isn’t because they suddenly started attracting fewer fans. In fact, they sold 80% of their tickets last year, which is far and away better than the last place team for the NBA or MLB and is actually better than what they did in 2006-07. I don’t think it’s responsible to say that hockey isn’t working out in Miami, though, when their contending baseball team isn’t drawing either. I think it’s more accurate to say that sports in general aren’t working in Miami. Don’t pin this one on the South.
Basically, if we’re looking at attendance statistics, it’s very clear that the NHL is just like any other sport. The best way to put fans in the seats is to put a good team on the field, or, in this case, the ice, no matter where you are.
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