What Is The NHL Lockout Doing To AHL Attendance?

With the NHL lockout cruising right along and no end in immediate sight, I wondered what – if anything – was happening to minor-league hockey attendance. Would NHL fans, desperate for a hockey fix, start filling minor-league arenas? Last night, almost 13,000 fans attended an ECHL game in San Jose between the San Francisco Bulls and Stockton Thunder (tickets were distributed for free by the San Jose Sharks), but are we seeing increased crowds across the board?

In the AHL, at least, it looks like. Nearly half of the second-tier league is enjoying a boost in average attendance of nine percent or more based on the latest figures from Hans Hornstein’s excellent database on minor league hockey attendance. Seven teams are off by seven percent or more, but, collectively, the 30 AHL teams are up just under nine percent compared to the same number of home games for each club a season ago.

Team G Total Average 2011 Average Change
Hamilton 10 70,665 7,067 37,190 3,719 90.02%
Toronto 10 62,299 6,230 40,843 4,084 52.54%
Norfolk 11 61,315 5,574 42,683 3,880 43.65%
Albany 12 41,280 3,440 31,613 2,634 30.58%
Rochester 12 76,349 6,362 60,882 5,074 25.40%
Abbotsford 14 56,723 4,052 45,886 3,278 23.63%
Bridgeport 10 61,610 6,161 51,615 5,162 19.36%
Lake Erie 9 65,300 7,256 55,259 6,140 18.18%
Milwaukee 6 27,482 4,580 24,768 4,128 10.95%
Chicago 11 72,587 6,599 65,608 5,964 10.64%
Syracuse 9 47,211 5,246 42,782 4,754 10.36%
Providence 12 85,764 7,147 77,849 6,487 10.17%
Springfield 12 41,442 3,454 37,954 3,163 9.21%
Rockford 13 53,127 4,087 49,838 3,834 6.61%
Grand Rapids 12 79,156 6,596 75,089 6,257 5.41%
Adirondack 11 38,883 3,535 38,032 3,457 2.24%
Houston 14 89,181 6,370 87,394 6,242 2.04%
St. John’s 16 100,592 6,287 100,975 6,311 -0.38%
Worcester 11 39,363 3,578 40,198 3,654 -2.09%
Peoria 11 48,163 4,378 49,397 4,491 -2.51%
San Antonio 14 88,531 6,324 90,830 6,488 -2.53%
Hershey 13 117,117 9,009 121,945 9,380 -3.96%
W-B/Scranton 13 69,171 5,321 72,186 5,553 -4.17%
Manchester 15 70,326 4,688 75,762 5,051 -7.18%
OK City 11 36,451 3,314 39,550 3,595 -7.83%
Binghamton 11 38,512 3,501 42,194 3,836 -8.73%
Charlotte 12 63,883 5,324 70,915 5,910 -9.91%
Texas 13 62,536 4,810 71,242 5,480 -12.23%
Connecticut 12 40,660 3,388 47,480 3,957 -14.37%
Portland 10 40,576 4,058 56,333 5,633 -27.96%
AHL TOTAL 350 1,846,255 5,275 1,698,406 4,853 8.70%

I’m not as familiar with all these minor-league hockey situations as I would be with comparable soccer situations, but you can see that NHL markets (or quasi-NHL markets, like Rochester, Albany and Syracuse, near Buffalo) are seeing healthy increases. Whether it’s all attributable to the absence of the NHL would require more study, but the lockout appears, on the surface, to be beneficial to AHL teams, at least. Checking the other leagues would require more work than I want to do at the moment, but perhaps soon.

3 comments on “What Is The NHL Lockout Doing To AHL Attendance?

  1. Eric A. says:

    I’d be interested to see if the 04-05 lockout had a boosting effect as well.

    The Rochester Amerks played in front of 19,070 paid attendance last night in Buffalo.

  2. vabeacher says:

    It didn’t hurt that the Norfolk Admirals played at least one home match at DC’s Verizon Center in front of 18,000+ fans.

  3. vabeacher says:

    The Charlotte team played in front of 10,000+ fans in Raleigh, yesterday. That should up their average. Playing a few games in NHL arenas, during the lockout, seems to have really helped the AHL.

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