College Hockey:
Interactive graphic: Average attendance at 2014 conference tournament down 40 percent

When we put together an interactive graphic last week showing the trends in attendance at the Division I men’s conference tournaments since 2000, we didn’t yet know how much things would change this season.

It was a lot, and not in a positive direction.

The average attendance for game sessions at the championship events across the country was down 40 percent from a year ago, to 6,628 from 11,136 in 2013.

The total attendance across six leagues and 16 ticketed sessions was down 27 percent from 2013. That’s even considering there were three more sessions this season than there were last year.

Most leagues include multiple games on one ticket, and since the attendance is counted only once for those games, we consider that as a session.

We’ll include this important caveat here: These are announced attendance figures, which generally represent the number of tickets sold. The number of people in the building was a different story and, in the case of the Big Ten at least, was sure to be quite a bit smaller.

Here’s the updated graphic. Check below for more information.

The total attendance for the two leagues that played in the Twin Cities (the Big Ten in St. Paul, Minn., and the NCHC in Minneapolis) was 59,862 across seven sessions.

In a 13-year run at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the WCHA Final Five had only one year where the total attendance was lower: 2011, when the tournament had only four sessions instead of the usual five.

With no teams from Boston in its tournament at TD Garden, Hockey East still managed to draw an announced total of 23,194 over two days. The high for that tournament was 2005, when both days had sellout crowds for a two-day total of 35,130.

ECAC Hockey saw a bump in attendance in its return to Lake Placid, N.Y. The average attendance over two days was more than 1,000 higher than in Atlantic City, N.J., last season.

The WCHA couldn’t expect to see attendance figures remotely close to it did with its former cast of teams that included Minnesota and North Dakota, and its average fell behind that of ECAC Hockey to rank fifth among the six leagues.

Atlantic Hockey’s announced total actually climbed from last year, but it’s still easy to spot the seasons when Rochester Institute of Technology hasn’t been part of the field at Blue Cross Arena.

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  • smack_libs_around

    Discretionary dollars are hard to come by these days, so this worry is being felt far and wide among the ‘lesser’ sports, movie theaters, theme parks. Disney is raking in cash from people’s cable bills (ESPN franchise) but not from them going through the turnstiles in Orlando at $99 per person per day. This has less to do with college hockey per se and more to do with the utter ‘financial depression’ people are in.

  • Quinnipiac Athletics

    Time to think about giving the teams who earned the higher seeds during the regular season home ice. Twice the fans with half the costs as only one team travels. Just like it is done in the NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL

    • thenoke

      QA, agreed. I watched and DVR’ed the entire B1G tournament and that has got to be total tickets sold and not people in the seats. I would like to see the B1G rotate the site to the schools every 6 years and make it affordable for the students to attend.

      • jdhockeyboyz

        A good number of all-session passes were sold because many like myself were conditioned to great attendance at the old WCHA final 5. If you wanted good seats for the semis or the championship game, you ponied up for all of them. This is clearly no longer necessary, and I’m certain it will depress sales at the Joe next year.

    • dking

      Agree 100% on the idea that the top seed during the regular season gets home ice. That will also make the reg season more fun fitting for home ice in the Tournament. They do that in the USHL, and NAHL Junior leagues.

    • 4life4america

      This would also work for me. Its a good idea and therefore it will never be accepted by the ECAC.

  • 4life4america

    The ECAC was up 28.3% despite QU being, for them, largely a no-show. Thank you Cornell, Union and Colgate. If the ECAC can put some marketing and management muscle into Lake Placid, could grow some. The place did look packed. Great hockey ambiance. Very expensive ski-resort.

  • Travis

    College Hockey attendance has a lot to do with location. Whats happened to the WCHA/Big 10/NCHC have really spread out the conferences. Before each of the old CCHA/WCHA were a lot more concentrated with each having bigger schools with big alumni population being a very close drive (ie: CCHA had MICH/MICH ST/OHIO ST pretty close to Detroit and WCHA had MINN, WIS, UND very close.) Then when you sprinkle in before that CCHA had Ferris State, WMU, Notre Dame also close and WCHA had UMD, SCSU, and Mankato its never going to see attendance levels where they were previously.

    • Tyler

      You’re right, Travis. Teams are way too spread out now. And, with games on HDTV nowadays why should we pay a bunch of money on travel, lodging, and some mediocre seats when we are guaranteed a good view in the comforts of our living room?

    • JakeB

      That too is a great point… But the BIG has it’s charter, and you can’t blame or forbid Penn State, another college, or conference, for joining the sport. SO… More regional conferences are better, right?. THEN… Why did the WCHA have to break up? Only two teams left. And the CCHA? Only three teams left. In my mind, the leagues panicked… Both could have continued if the power schools left in each (WCHA in particular) didn’t let their egos get in the way. To stay short, you can figure out the breakdowns yourself.

      • Alan Binger

        You are absolutely right. The CCHA would have been fine too without the Big 10 teams. Miami and Western stays, add Huntsville and we have a nice size league even if ND bolted….most still just a short drive from Detroit for a great tournament. Oh well, it is what it is.

      • Birther 2.0

        Denver and Sioux had a secret agreement in their by-laws that dictate the formation of a new conference should the b1g attempt a hockey league. So you see the Pio’s and Sioux had no choice. Sure, it ruined the game. But we had our by-laws and everyone knows by-laws are impossible to change. Sometimed you have to ruin the game to grow the game. And we MUST grow the game.

        • JakeB

          That’s another twist very few fans know about. So all this talk, teams complaining about travel, etc., is kind of useles, huh?

  • Guest

    I blame Penn State

    • JakeB

      You’re misguided… This is an NCAA $$$ issue. Ticket prices, (and arena concessions and travel) are TOO expensive… for college students in particular. And most of these tournaments fall the weekend before or after Spring Break. Proof? The last 3-4 years the ECACH tourney was in Albany. Not too mention the sterile environments (ie, blocking participating colleges to sell their own gear on site) created by conforming to the NCAA corporate brand.

  • Johnny Quest

    I LOVE college hockey, but paying $40-$60 per ticket is ridiculous when the games are free in HD on TV.

    • Brian

      That assessment is spot on. Way overpriced for people in this economy.

    • Scott Stone

      I get what you’re saying, but I paid $80 for all four games of the NCHC tournament. There’s cheap tickets to be had. That being said, I’d be able to see the players close on my 50″ HDTV, of course.

    • Guest6400

      Nchc tix were $70 per game, outrageous!

      • SIOUX

        not sure what NCHC tournament you went to, but I paid a total of $60 for my tickets and I sat lower level the whole weekend. I also walked up just prior to game time on Friday and bought them at the box office. let’s talk about the outrageous beer prices maybe…

        • Guest6400

          I, too, went on Friday. At the Target Center ticket window I went to purchase my seats just before face-off the lower level seats were priced at $70 per and $35 per for upper level. Upper level seats in Target Center are terrible for sight lines. Not sure which window you went to…… but the seating chart I was shown had $70 al lower and $35 all upper

          • SIOUX

            I asked for the 4 game package at $30 per session. knowing that no one was going to come to these games besides my fellow Sioux fans i bought upper level, knowing i was never going to sit there because they weren’t going to sell out the lower level. (my actual seat had a great view, it was a corner section by the crappy Miami band. so not all upper level had bad viewing) but your mistake was buying the lower level seat. and they never actually sold single game tickets. the tickets were good for both games on both days. so you got charged twice each day then if you’re $70 per game comment is accurate.

          • Guest6400

            they are not marketing the ticket side of the ledger very effectively. If they want to build an audience for these events then they need to price and package things much differently. however, this will not happen because the ncaa operates much like the fine folks running let’s say n. korea or even Russia for that matter. The ncaa probably prefers to take a hit in some areas so the tax man is more pleasant and understanding. Nonetheless, having only 3500 people (I may be generous here, the lower bowl at Target Center only holds about 8,500 – many, many more upper level seats) in Target Center is not a very good image for the NCHC or the ncaa

          • SIOUX

            yeah, so I don’t know. you may want to look into getting a refund if they charged you for single games instead of sessions. there is no fault to be given to the NCHC or NCAA in your situation. you only have yourself to blame, unfortunately. unless you only went to 2 games of the 4 than yes you got what you paid for and didn’t take advantage of the 2 games for $70 price that was actually offered.

          • MT

            Ok ok calm down. The NCAA sucks but these comparisons are asinine.

        • MT

          Could have sat on the glass if we wanted to…plenty of open seats. :(

      • http://ndgoon.blogspot.com/ Goon’s ND Redneck

        Wrong, you could by a two day pass to get into the game for 70.00 divided by two that’s 35 dollars a day.

    • SIOUX

      $15 per game at NCHC if you attended all 4.

  • Ryan

    At the Target Center for the NCHC tourney I did not see any more than 10 Denver jerseys, less than 75 Miami fans, and a handful of Western Michigan fans. There were more CC, UMD, UNO and St. Cloud fans which weren’t even in the tourney. The rest were North Dakota fans. A lot of fan bases just don’t travel.

    • Drew

      I hate that North Dakota travels so well that they can turn my home ice 1000 miles away into their home ice. But I love them for that too. Need more fans like them.

      • Ryan

        We live and die by our team. It’s fun taking over Denver, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and other teams home arenas. Even the ticket policy in Denver this year didn’t work.

      • nogofer

        Not only do we travel well, many of us live in big cities across the country. We are everywhere…

      • gophernotgolfer

        It isn’t traveling when have your alum live in the twin cities

    • JakeB

      Great point, Ryan… I contend 75% (and that may be generous) of the fan bases will NEVER travel, unless it is just down the street. The NCAA along with some the leagues, has been blind to acknowledge that.

    • Ryan

      But as Brian Sullivan an ECAC correspondent for USCHO said on Twitter “No “lucky” draws in #ECACHockey’s first round: All lower seeds must travel significant distances, to play formidable opponets.” I laughed at that as those “significant distances” he said happen to be only 2 1/2 to 3 hours. He responded with “it means a hotel stay and fewer friendly fans.” What a joke, get a group together split gas/hotel and there you go problem solved aka FUN WEEKEND.

      • JakeB

        Brian’s issue is a little off the mark. Outside of Cornell (and only Cornell, no else is close in the EAST), it’s a fact that ECACH as a whole does not travel well at all. The other 5 Ivies in particular disappear at playoff time. Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Colgate are OK (but not by your standards) if their team is good. But I will say that Union, as the team continues win and move up the ranks to ECACH elite, is traveling far better with the potential become 2nd to Cornell shortly, if not already.

        Just understand and remember, distances in the East aren’t as far as out West… Fans are conditioned to the conditions that exist. Only two programs travel in the East, Cornell and Maine. With everyone else it’s a mixed bag at best.

  • B1Gmistake

    The Big Ten has ruined the excitement in college hockey.

    • Scott Stone

      It’ll take some getting used to, but the rivalries will build. I think in the short term it’s definitely a hinder, but in the long term, growing the game is never a bad thing.

      • B1Gmistake

        I really don’t think the Big Ten tournament will ever match the excitement of the old Final Five…and that is a shame.

        • Scott Stone

          You’re probably right. Man, those were some fun games to go to.

        • Alan Binger

          You can say the exact same thing for the CCHA Championship at “The Joe”! The Big 10 has screwed this up for everyone out “west”!

  • dking

    Thank You Big Ten

    • nogofer


  • John Terry

    Posted in another one too:

    First – I’m so glad they moved the ECAC tourney to Placid. That town actually embraces the event, unlike Albany and Atlantic City did.

    Second – college hockey needs to go back to on-campus site for tournaments. Whether it’s just for conference tourneys (for non-Hockey East schools), the national regionals, or both, the atmosphere is sorely lacking. The only issue I could see would be schools with arenas less than 3-4,000 that could end up as the top seed in the conference tourney or national regional. In that case, they can all have their de-facto “home arena” that they’d use to host. St. Lawrence (and maybe Clarkson) have Lake Placid, Holy Cross has the DCU Center in Worcester, Union has the TUC in Albany…

    Even if venues are too small, though, wouldn’t it be great to hear that the game is SOLD OUT and have a packed, lively crowd of 2,500 than have the same 2,500 people in a a cavernous 11,000 seat arena?

    Being the top seed barely comes as an advantage anyways because of the great parity in college hockey, Only one of the 6 regular season winners won their conference tourney (Union)! Give regular season winners something more to play for with the ability to be host, and generate some serious buzz on campus with the week-long build up

    • JakeB

      John, your points are well taken, but it all comes down to NCAA control and it’s need to feed the lion… $$$$$.

      • John Terry

        Understood, but I just hate seeing these 1/4 full (or worse) arenas for the biggest weekends of the year. Hopefully someone smarter than I can figure it out

  • wincav

    Many good points people are making. Adding to the ticket price issue is the fact that there are other costs involved as well. At Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul you can add $15 to park and “out of site” concession prices. I know a lot of college students ( among others) that don’t have those extra funds.

  • jdhockeyboyz

    What I learned this past weekend:

    Only a fool will purchase an all session pass to the Big10 tourney next season at Detroit. The advance sale of passes assured acceptable attendance figures for the St. Paul event. But actual live bodies in seats were terrible, even for the games featuring Minny and Wiskey. The fan bases of Mich, MSU, OSU, and Wisc were wrapped up in hoops.

    The NoDak faithful made the Nacho tourney look good. Hats off to them. They love hockey and their team and they don’t get bogged down with hoops. An all-session pass to this event was much more affordable than the Big10 to the east.

    The WCHA was predictably small and sad. For a preview of next year’s event at the X, just imagine the empty seats at the Big10, but with half the announced attendance.

  • Al B

    I think its a matter of three things (from a CCHA/B10 perspective):
    1) Conferences are no longer regionalized. CCHA was centered around Michigan, WCHA around Minnesota. Now a WMU fan in Detroit area would drive 10+ hours to see their team in Minneapolis as opposed to 20 minutes to the Joe.
    2) Smaller schools competition. CCHA finals were dominated by large schools like MSU/UM that filled the Joe with larger fanbases. Once other teams started to compete with them, they got in with smaller fanbases to fill the stadium (note: this is NOT a bad thing!)
    3) TV. Easier for a UM fan in Ann Arbor to turn on BTN than drive the 10 hours to Minneapolis and pay for gas, food, lodging and tickets just to see their team get bounced on the first day. Minnesotans may disagree with me on this, but I would expect a similar general sentiment amongst them next year when its at the Joe.

    Also, is there a similar trend in the Playoffs? I’ve been to the frozen four in 2004, 2005, and 2010 (Boston, Columbus, Detroit) and they were in college hockey popular states and had good turnouts. I’m curious as to whether or not a site like Tampa fills up or not as well. Could someone clarify/correct me on this?

    • Don Bjorkman

      Tampa was a great location, lots of fans. Had a great time there even if my team(MN) embarrassed themselves.

      • Al B

        Ah. Thanks. I must admit I was skeptical about the finals being in warmer cities, but I guess I underestimated the travel appeal to them! Maybe your team won’t go down so badly this year (go B10 & Ferris). Good Luck.

  • Guest6400

    Watch espn’s 30 30 on big east basketball. One can only wonder if this is what might happen long-term to college hockey.

  • Bob Neal

    By the time these league semi finals happen, some fans may have paid for 5 games in the previous 2 weeks at maybe $20 per game; Throw in a spouse or kids. A lot of $$$. Travel and maybe a hotel room. Then you save for the NCAA Regionals. Some people may by pass the Hockey East final 4 so they can go to Worcester this week. The NCAA needs to sell single game tickets at a reasonable rate. We are getting squeezed!

    If this weekends games are badly attended ( And they will be ), I suspect that the NCAA may go to 2 sites where 8 teams a piece play. Rotate between Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee and Grand Forks out west and Boston, Providence, Hartford and Manchester in the east. Stay away from Worcester, Bridgeport, Albany and Cincinnati. They just don’t draw well.

  • http://slurptheo.com SlurpTheo

    A drier Xcel didn’t help things (B1G)…

  • bronxbomberz41

    I think losing Minnesota to the Big 10 killed the WCHA attendance numbers. And you also had two tournament championships in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, that has to factor into part of it.

    I think Notre Dame being IN the HEA semis slightly hurt attendance there. If that was BC instead of ND (just based on prior round matchups), you get an immediate bump in attendance from BC fans in the area. ND fans tend to be everywhere, and they travel well, but its not the same as having the majority of your fan base within a 1-2 hour drive would have been a lot better for attendance there (from what i heard, both UNH and Lowell were well represented on Saturday night). And ND hockey does not equal ND football, not even close, so you’re not going to get the same kind of bump you would from ND football or basketball coming to town.

  • Anti-NCAA

    Since when does the NCAA actually listen to its fan base? These people are admin knotheads that think they know what is best for collegiate hockey programming. However, in fact, they know little about what is best for growth of the sport. The only thing this is important to the NCAA is $MONEY$, pure and simple.

    They have no issue squeezing those who want to attend games as a fan. So what! There will be someone else that buys tickets that don’t normally go to college hockey games…. THAT’S who is important to the NCAA. Not you, the fan.

    The NCAA should dump the region sites and only project the Frozen Four. Let the regional sites be more localized so that the college hockey fans are the ones able to attend. It’s sickening to me watching a regional site in St. Louis, MO and only 500 people sitting in the arena. REALLY?? If they want 12,000 people attending hockey games you must put those venues where people will stand in line clamoring to get tickets!!

  • MT

    Thank you for the update!

  • ChuckGandCrew

    Yea, I agree during spring break is a tough time to have hold these. The better gauge will be this weekends games. I’m sick of the excuse that there were no Boston teams. Look at the graph, compare to ’08, ’10, ’12 it looks about the same to me. Last year there was a spike because BU turned out for Parker, knowing it was their chance to say goodbye. I say making such a big deal about this.

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