It's no secret that the Stars have been hurting for attendance the last couple of years. We've endured invasions of Blackhawk, Red Wing and Penguins fans as well as heard snide comments from Canadians whenever we happen to host one of their teams.
So being a nerd and having some time on my hands, I created a spreadsheet or two with attendance numbers from the 1993-94 season (when the Stars moved to Dallas) to the present. Basically, I wanted to be able to tell Canadians (and Chicago/Pittsburgh/Boston fans) that they were dumb using numbers. And I wanted to make sure I wasn't totally wrong in my assumptions either.
I looked at attendance for every Canadian team that has existed while the Stars have been in Dallas (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Hartford, Quebec) and the additional four Original 6 teams (Chicago, Boston, New York, Detroit). I also included Philly and Pittsburgh, because they seem to have reps for being good hockey towns. There have been 19 seasons of hockey completed since the Stars arrived (I didn't include this season because it's not done yet). So, based on the numbers, here are some thoughts:
-Only 5 teams have averaged over 20,000 in attendance per game for an entire season. Four are not surprising: Montreal (17 times), Detroit (7 times), Chicago (7 times) and Philly (once). Kudos is you can guess the fifth. (Answer further below)
-I would have thought that missing the playoffs would mean either lower attendance for that season or perhaps the season after. But Dallas's two best attendance seasons were a season when they missed the playoffs (2001-02) and the season after. Can't figure that one out.
-What is easy to figure out is the correlation between 5 straight years of no playoffs with a drastic attendance drop. We've steadily declined from 18ish thousand a game to under 15 thousand a game, with a brief spike in attendance last season (probably due to a shortened season and new owner).
-Detroit, Montreal and Philly are straight up hockey towns. In the last 19 seasons, they were top 5 in attendance 18, 17 and 15 times, respectively.
-I scoffed my Blackhawk friends who said that Chicago was "a hockey town only ruined for a short time by Bill Wirtz." As much as it pains me to admit, they're right. From 1993 to 1998, Chicago was top 5 in attendance every season. From 2000-2007, they were bottom 10. Bill Wirtz died in 2007, passing ownership to his son, Rocky Wirtz. In the next season (2008-2009) attendance jumped from 19th in the NHL to 1st. That means they were 1st in NHL attendance before they starting winning cups.
-Boston and Pittsburgh, however, are not hockey towns. In the last 19 seasons, they've finished in the bottom 10 in attendance a combined 16 times. Pittsburgh was dead last in 2003-04. From 1993-present, Dallas has averaged a higher attendance than either one. (Dallas: 17k/game, Pittsburgh: 16.2k/game, Boston: 16k/game)
-Dallas has out-drawn at least one Canadian hockey team 17 out of 19 seasons.
-Dallas has out-drawn at least two Canadian hockey teams 12 out of 19 seasons.
-The only Canadian hockey team Dallas has not out-drawn at least five separate times is Montreal (it actually hasn't even happened once).
-Basically, if a Canadian tells you Dallas is too far south for hockey and they need to be moved to Canada, they're an idiot. But you already knew that.
-On that note, since 1993, Dallas(17k/game) has averaged a higher attendance per game played than Hartford(11.7k/game during years of existence), Winnipeg(13.5k/game during years of existence), Quebec(14.5k/game during years of existence) and Edmonton(16k/game). They've also been roughly on par with Vancouver (17.5k/game), though admittedly trending in opposite directions at the moment.
-Still haven't figured out that 5th team to average over 20k per game for a full season? Tampa Bay. They're the one team I wish I had included in my spreadsheet that I didn't. I guess I could go back and add them, but that sounds like more work. They've had some down years, but they've finished in the top 5 in attendance more often than you'd think.
-On my spreadsheet, I highlighted teams that won cups to see if there was a correlation between winning it all and attendance numbers. The only thing I saw was that Detroit has won a bunch and Canada can't buy one.