Attendance Up 7%, But Canes Need To Do Better

The Carolina Hurricanes enjoyed a 7.2% increase in attendance from the 2009-10 season to this past season, but is the glass half full or half empty?

The team had the advantage of hosting the NHL All Star Classic this past January and leveraged that benefit to lure several new season ticketholders into the family, but what will happen next season?  Will attendance drop back down to the 2009-10 level?

 

NHL      Total
     Average
Year Rank   Attendance   Attendance
2010-11  20th        670,076          16,363
2009-10  23rd        624,873          15,240
2008-09  20th        679,488          16,572
2007-08  20th        681,962          16,633
2006-07  15th        712,861          17,386
2005-06  21st        639,454          15,596
2003-04  29th        505,534          12,330
2002-03  19th        642,973          15,682
2001-02  24th        635,868          15,508

The good news is that when compared to the rest of the league, the Canes aren't doing too badly.  They rank 20th overall, ahead of huge markets like Colorado, New Jersey, Anaheim, and Dallas. 

The bad news is that at this stage in the life of the market, they should probably be drawing better.  It was a somewhat disappointing total of 17,700 fans who made the trip to the RBC to watch the most important game of the season, the elimination game against Tampa Bay.  A sell out would be 18,620.

The club had eight sellouts for the season and most of those were comprised of a fairly large contingent of fans from other teams, (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, etc.).

Keep in mind, Carolina is among the smallest markets, if not the smallest, in the league.  Also, several fans in the area have moved from other major cities and they brought their previous loyalties with them.  But still, the team needs to do better.

What seems to drive attendance more than anything else?  Winning and losing.  

From that standpoint, the team is it's own worst enemy.  Since the Stanley Cup run in 2005-06, the Canes have only made it to the playoffs once in the last five years.  You'll notice from the chart above that Carolina's best season at the gate was the year immediately after winning the Cup.

The worst attended season in recent years was in 2009-10, the year the Canes had a 14 game losing streak and spent much of the season in last place.   

Obviously, the Hurricanes can't be expected to win the Cup every year, but it would help if they could be competitive and consistent.  The years when they flirt with last place seem to kill any attendance momentum from the previous year.

In 2002-03, the team finished dead last in the NHL and scored the fewest goals in modern NHL history.  The following season, attendance fell off the chart and was 29th in the league.  Management got so desperate that in mid-season they fired Paul Maurice and hired Peter Laviolette. 

Hopefully, it won't take such a drastic drop in attendance for the next coaching change to take place, if it's needed.  That's why the start of next season is so important.  The franchise simply can not afford another season where they spend the majority of it looking up at the top eight playoff teams, hoping that they will somehow slip into the mix during the last week.

Also, it still seems like the club could do a better job marketing and selling the game.  Now that their AHL affiliate is in-state, (Charlotte Checkers), that should help broaden their regional appeal.  But more needs to be done. 

In a perfect world the RBC would sell out every night.  We don't live in a perfect world, but over 17,000 a night should be a realistic goal and something the marketing department should strive for.  The team has several young stars.  Everywhere you look around town, or on local TV, you should be seeing their faces. 

Peter Karmanos has been looking to sell a share of the team to investors for about a year now.  It can't be easy trying to do that when your enterprise is losing money more often than not and has only made it to the postseason once in five years. 

The team needs higher attendance, but what's the solution to the problem? 

 

(Information for this article used from Hurricanes Hockey Report and from ESPN.com)

 

2010-11 Attendance Home Road Overall
RK TEAM GMS TOTAL AVG PCT GMS AVG PCT GMS AVG PCT
1 Blackhawks 41 878,356 21,423 104.5 41 17,864 97.4 82 19,665 101.2
2 Canadiens 41 850,920 21,273 100.0 41 18,007 97.5 82 19,640 98.9
3 Flames 41 793,293 19,832 102.8 41 16,558 90.4 82 18,175 96.7
4 Flyers 41 788,419 19,710 101.1 41 17,525 94.7 82 18,604 98.0
5 Red Wings 41 806,892 19,680 98.5 41 18,224 99.6 82 18,952 99.0
6 Penguins 41 797,739 19,457 107.6 41 18,034 97.2 82 18,754 102.4
7 Maple Leafs 41 774,386 19,359 102.9 41 16,894 90.9 82 18,111 96.9
8 Blues 41 766,000 19,150 100.0 41 16,229 88.6 82 17,671 94.4
9 Canucks 41 773,260 18,860 102.4 41 17,056 93.3 82 17,969 97.9
10 Sabres 41 756,568 18,452 98.7 41 16,994 91.3 82 17,732 95.1
11 Capitals 41 754,309 18,397 100.7 41 18,400 99.1 82 18,398 99.9
12 Senators 41 753,525 18,378 96.0 41 17,150 92.2 82 17,764 94.1
13 NY Rangers 41 706,032 18,103 99.5 41 17,609 95.1 82 17,853 97.3
14 Kings 41 722,661 18,066 99.7 41 17,045 93.3 82 17,549 96.4
15 Wild 41 732,863 17,874 99.0 41 16,371 89.7 82 17,123 94.3
16 Bruins 41 700,334 17,508 99.7 41 17,728 95.0 82 17,619 97.2
17 Sharks 41 712,017 17,366 98.9 41 17,057 92.8 82 17,211 95.8
18 Lightning 41 676,610 17,348 87.8 41 16,863 91.6 82 17,103 89.7
19 Oilers 41 690,399 16,839 100.0 41 17,063 92.3 82 16,950 96.0
20 Hurricanes 41 670,076 16,343 87.5 41 16,681 89.7 82 16,512 88.6
21 Predators 41 661,861 16,142 94.3 41 16,202 87.0 82 16,172 90.6
22 Panthers 41 624,745 15,618 81.3 41 16,973 91.7 82 16,304 86.5
23 Stars 41 617,997 15,073 81.3 41 16,933 93.1 82 15,991 87.1
24 Devils 41 605,803 14,775 83.8 41 17,789 95.5 82 16,282 89.8
25 Avalanche 41 590,084 14,752 81.9 41 17,121 93.5 82 15,951 87.8
26 Ducks 41 604,283 14,738 85.8 41 17,062 92.8 82 15,885 89.4
27 Thrashers 41 536,145 13,403 72.3 41 16,681 90.3 82 15,062 81.4
28 Blue Jackets 41 520,652 13,350 73.6 41 16,498 89.6 82 14,963 81.9
29 Coyotes 41 500,533 12,208 71.3 41 16,685 90.9 82 14,446 81.4
30 NY Islanders 41 453,456 11,059 68.1 41 17,313 92.9 82 14,108 81.0
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