Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Playoff Teams With Opposite Attendance

After a loss in intramural volleyball last night, I was checking out the standings going into the second half, and one thing caught me.

In the East, four teams will be fighting for the bottom two spots. The Sabres, Hurricanes, Panthers, and Penguins. In terms of attendance, the Sabres and Penguins do just fine. However, the Hurricanes and Panthers have not played in front of playoff like crowds much yet this year.

Carolina is 23rd in attendance ranked by average, averaging 15,357 a night, which is about 82% capacity at the RBC Center. They only have two sellouts this season, the first two games of the year. The attendance then plunged, going over 15,000 only twice in a span of 13 games. That dip ended with the 17th home game of the season, two days after Christmas when the Bruins visited Raleigh. Including the Bruins game, the attendance has only dipped below 16,000 twice; and the Canes even broke 18,000 for the first time since their second home game when the Leafs visited right before the All-Star Break.

So will the Canes attendance keep climbing as the team fights for their playoff spot since their Cup run in 05-06? I think so. There is a little tradition in Raleigh already with the Cup run, so the "Redneck Hockey" fans might come out of the woodwork again. Only time will tell and I will be watching.

Meanwhile, in sunny Florida, the BankAtlantic Center could definitely use some Panthers Playoff Fever. The Panthers haven't made the playoffs since 1999-2000 and have been, as usual, struggling at the gate. They are 25th in attendance ranked by average, with just under 15,000 a night (remember, its called "paid" attendance). This puts them with the next-to-last capacity rating of 77.8%. Yikes. They have only "sold out" one game this season, when the Canadiens visited at the end of December.

So will the Panthers attendance see a rise due to some playoff fever? Maybe, but I doubt it. The team has too many fair-weather fans. If they make it into playoffs, it wouldn't shock me to see some sellouts, but even that might be a stretch. We will see though.

Onto the West, where it will be a complete crap shoot; something that will be really fun to watch as the season dwindles. Virtually everyone is still in it, as the last place Blues (42 points) trail the 5th place Coyotes by only 11 points, and the 8th place Ducks by 9 points. Although the Blues would have to play very well, it is definitely not impossible. But, to be realistic, I think the Kings, Preds, and Blues may be out of it with the strength of the West. So I think the Coyotes and Blue Jackets can really benefit from a little playoff fever.

Without going crazy on the Coyotes (take a look at my Playing Below Capacity series, Phoenix edition, for more info), they are obviously in a mess off the ice. Everyone loves a winner though, and I really think they could benefit from the hockey fans in the desert getting a taste of the playoffs.

I think the same goes for Columbus, as they have had a solid year on the TV front, as Puck The Media showed. They have not had such as luck at the gate, but have slowly been rising in the past games of the first half. They have only sold out one game, a 3-0 win two days after Christmas (a Saturday) when a solid Flyers club rolled into town. With a hot rookie goalie and with the team only two points out of a playoff spot, the Blue Jackets could be the newest and hottest mid-market team. I think a playoff run, their first of the Jackets existence, would create some die-hard fans and would help the bottom line immensely in Columbus.

Moving on...

Sports Media Watch had a cool post last night, comparing the TV Ratings of NBA and NHL teams in the same markets. Not surprisingly, most of the NBA teams are out-drawing the NHL on the tube, but some are close than you would think. Its worth a quick look.

That's all for now.

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