Home > NBA, NHL > Is Hockey upstaging Hoops?

Is Hockey upstaging Hoops?

The Chicago Blackhawks average attendance is 20,504.

We recently were tipped off to a forum post authored by ‘Primis’ on the hockey website Finish Your Check that blew our collective minds.

The NHL has always been the little cousin to the ‘Big Three’ professional sporting associations in North America (NFL, MLB and NBA).  You would invite him to hang out with you and your friends but you would belittle him and shatter his self esteem at every possible opportunity.  He would get the trifecta of old school pranks: the wet willy, the wedgie and my personal favorite, the ‘Hurts Donut.’  Once you grew up, you became increasingly worried that your little cousin would somehow become bigger than you and all hell would break loose.  But you were never really worried because, come on, it’s the NHL we’re talking about here.  Well, little cousin NHL is back and he’s bigger than you may remember him being.

Let’s face it, the rules changes and television gimmicks of the past (Yes, I’m talking to you glowing Fox puck orb.) have not helped its reputation with the mainstream sports fan.  But a recent surge in popularity has placed the NHL almost dead even, if not slightly ahead of, the NBA in attendance for the 2009-2010 season.

Honestly, has there been any single promotion better for hockey than the Winter Classic series? Even causal hockey fans and people who never watch hockey mark this as a ‘must watch’ game on their sports calendar…I would know, I’m as casual of a hockey fan as there is.  Playing hockey in its intended climate in cathedrals of sport is one of the better ideas in recent sports history, let alone NHL history. Imagine if the NBA could play one regular season game at Rucker Park with LeBron going up against Kobe, and they promoted the hell out of it just like the NHL does with the Winter Classic.  It would be a-freaking-mazing.)

Here are the excerpts from the original post on FYC that got us thinking:

* The NHL has 12 teams drawing 18,000/game or more. The NBA only has 9 teams.
* The NHL has 10 teams averaging 100% capacity or over. The NBA only has 5.
* The NHL’s NY Islanders, 29th in Attendance, are drawing only 12,485 yet still are outdrawing the NBA’s Sacramento (12,145), Philly (11,965), and Memphis (11,591) franchises.
* These averages are all higher still despite the fact that the NHL clubs on average have played about 10 more home games than their NBA counterparts.

Some of those numbers have changed slightly since it’s original post, but the fact remains true.  The NHL is flat out beating the NBA in a few attendance categories.

Here are some other things we noticed about the NBA/NHL attendance comparisons:

  • The NBA still leads the NHL in total average game attendance, but the gap is very small at only 166 people per game. (NBA: 16,893 – NHL: 16,707)
  • In Philadelphia the NBA is getting throttled by the NHL (NHL: 19,366 – NBA: 12,932)
  • In Phoenix the NHL is getting similarly throttled by the NBA (NBA: 17,339 – NHL: 9,774)
  • Chicago is killing it in both NHL and NBA attendance (NBA Rank: 1 w/ 21,079 – NHL Rank: 2 w/ 20,504)

I could provide many more stats that showcase the parity between the NBA and NHL attendance numbers, but I really don’t like math and it makes my head hurt. See the NHL and NBA attendance figures for yourself from ESPN.com.

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Categories: NBA, NHL Tags: ,
  1. December 8, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Makes you think that’s for sure. I am a big hockey fan, but once long ago I never missed a Chicago Bulls game. Both of these sports have went through many changes ove rthe past 10-20 years.

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