Crowd Control

Welcome, one and all, to USCHO.com’s newest blog. I hope to use this resource to address noteworthy material that falls outside the scope of my weekly ECAC Hockey column (though many of my readers would argue that over the years, precious little has qualified as falling out of range of a carefully crafted tangent).

Turnstiles do the Talking

Thanks to USCHO reader Vic Berardelli for noting this little nugget of college hockey information: the games are popular.

No, really. Three WCHA teams (Wisconsin, North Dakota and Minnesota) have out-drawn the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes in per-game attendance, and the Badgers are edging the New York Islanders as well. Wisconsin leads the nation in attendance with 12,638 per game, while UND (11,605) and the U (9,889) also draw quite well. (Michigan and New Hampshire rank fourth and fifth, but fall more than 3,000 short of Minnesota.)

The Coyotes, on the other hand, pull up dead last in the National Hockey League at 9,825 … which is to be expected from a team with high lame-duck potential. The Islanders – despite top pick John Tavares – only pull 12,429 through the gates at Nassau County Coliseum, and rumors are flying that they, too, could soon be on the move.

But it’s not just the pitiful that the WCHA troika is trouncing: they each topped the American Hockey League’s best draw, the Hershey Bears (8,906). Berardelli’s perspicacity also led him to note that in Lowell, Mass., the local UMass-Lowell River Hawks have walloped the AHL’s Lowell Devils by better than a two-to-one margin … while playing in the same building. Up in Rochester, RIT drew more than 7,400 against Colgate at the Blue Cross Arena, home of the AHL’s Rochester Americans. It took the “Amerks” three home games combined to equal that total. (Thanks to editor Ed Trefzger for that note.) The UNH Wildcats sit over 1,500 more per game than the Manchester Monarchs down the road.

Expanding the scope, 22 of the NCAA’s 58 Division I programs are beating the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s 3,202 per-game average. Wisconsin and UND are ahead of the Quebec Remparts’ 11,175, a figure that is more than doubling all other QMJHL teams.

Nineteen D-I’s beat the Ontario Hockey League’s average of 3,794, and the NCAA’s Top Three better the OHL’s London Knights’ 9,020.

The Western Hockey League’s 4,082 fell short of 17 D-I programs, and the Calgary Hitmen’s 7,107 lead that league – still short of UW, UND and UM.

Breaking it Down

These numbers are all well and good, but what do they really mean? Well with regards to the NHL, it means things aren’t looking good at all for the Isles and ‘Yotes. This is the premier league in the world; none of its teams should be coming up short of anyone but each other.

The AHL comparison is, for all intents and purposes, just that – a comparison. The best of the NCAA feeds into the AHL, so it’s a bit tough to compare them in terms of skill, atmosphere, or business model.

Now this is where Paul Kelly and the NCAA gets antsy: the Major Juniors matchups. When kids are trying to decide their best course of action – Canadian Juniors or the NCAA – the number of fans in the stands may not be the be-all end-all, but it has a significant effect nonetheless.

As much as I’d love to tell you that Division I institutions are kicking their Canadian counterparts to the curb, the final figures aren’t quite that optimistic. I put a good spin on things in the opening half, but here is the other side of the coin:

• The WHL and OHL average, as leagues, higher turnouts than NCAA D-I’s as a group: 3,319.

• The emptiest arena in the Canadian Hockey League – the umbrella organization that oversees the OHL, QMJHL and WHL – is at Acadie-Bathurst, which pulls 1,483 per game this year. That still puts 13 D-I’s – nearly a quarter of all Division I members – beneath it, including such recently successful and storied programs as Princeton and Colgate.

If you combine the Major Juniors and D-I’s onto the same chart, you’ll see that they split the Top 10. The colleges have 11 of the top 20, but again split 15-15 when expanded to 30.

There are far too many variables to consider when analyzing the Junior-College draws, and let’s face it – it’s not so important as to be worth all that trouble anyhow.

In my opinion, the NCAA should be happy at beating a couple NHL organizations (as depressing as that is, in many ways), and can currently feel content at holding its own against the hockey-mad Canadian market. When battling the Juniors for talent, there are more important issues at hand.

1 COMMENT

  1. Actually Drew, that would be 5 consecutive championships for the Gophers. The last two years the Gophers were in the WCHA and the first three years of the B1G.

      • The BTN television announcers made the same mistake. It is pretty disappointing to see the lack of research from these people.

          • This has zero to do with the B1G and more to do with people not doing their homework. Sadly, I see this sort of thing all the time with announcers and commentators at all levels.

          • For as much crap as I give the conference, and most times to rile people up, I will say with 100% honesty that the commentators for the network are absolutely atrocious.

          • At UMD game Saturday night and it was 1/4th full if that. Great team and sweep sad to see a lot of arenas are this way.

          • I’ll say some is because of spring break. But UND was pretty full on Friday and their spring break was going on.

          • Back in the day, the CCHA first rounds always coincided with Spring Break. Rarely was Munn filled.

          • To rile up people? Is that what your going with? More like just hiding your obsession with the gophers and Minnesota.

    • That would mean they have to win 2 games in a row, not an easy task for this team…. :-o Nice win on friday night. Hopefully Wisconsin can turn it around next year and make the big ten a lil more respectable.

      • Next year should be a leap year for the Badgers. Only one senior on this years’ roster, Wittchow (the hack from Burnsville, MN). The ‘leap’ could be negatively affected by the stinky AD @ WI, ie…..canning Eaves. That would be a mistake.

          • I think the AD would set an improving program back by dropping Eaves.
            The team had opportunities to quit on Eaves but didn’t.

          • Well, in all honesty it would be hard to be worse than last year’s Wisconsin squad. This year’s team has played better, but I think many of the issues Eaves is facing, were self-inflicted

          • Anastos is another one that I would think is skating on thin ice. I can’t imagine Spartan fans are very happy with the results since he took over the coaching reins. Couple that with his 8 year plan crock. Seriously 8 years? I get a few years when you are a new coach to get your recruits in and to play your style, but 8 years???? Who would buy into that? Also, unless you have some hotshot goalie coming in, it will be hard to replace Hildebrand next year.

        • Wow, interesting opinion on Eaves. I think UW has been pretty weak for a few years. I know Eaves won a NC not too long ago, but the program is in bad shape. I watched part of the MN game, Wiscy looked like they were all a head shorter, one stride slower, and just a basic mess on the ice. From what I have heard (and this is not totally “inside” info), Eaves is done. We’ll see.

          • I’m surprised Anastos lasted this long, to be honest. My theory (as a Michigan fan) is that people have kind of forgotten about MSU hockey with the success that the football and basketball programs have had over recent years.

          • I agree with your assessment. In the 1980’s, 90’s and 2000’s The only real successful sport on Campus was Hockey. Football was good every 5-7 years. BB every 3-4 years until TI took over from Jud. But Hockey was king. And now with the success of both BB and FB, interest in Hockey has diminished considerably. Poor play isn’t helping the matter.

          • It’s a shame too. I really liked Anastos as CCHA commish (you know, before the B1G decided to ruin college hockey.) I was kind of hoping to see him succeed against the other 4 B1G schools.

    • Not sure when they took the pic, but I was at the game. About 85% full. There is an ongoing issue with tickets being given to companies and then the seats not being used. It’s pretty sad when there are fans that would fill those seats. Hopefully, they will be addressing this issue.

    • The official sold tickets were 10,383. There were lots of folks in the Standing room areas. It was 85-90% full in the actual seats. The sections next to the student section behind the Wisconsin net in periods 1 & 3 was less than that for some reason. Those are great seats.

      To be fair, no one is very excited about B1G hockey yet and given how we’ve done against other Minnesota teams this year, I would say we’re happy about it, but no one is doing cartwheels since we’re pretty well cemented into that 17 spot in the PWR.

      • That part of the student section did not sell well pre-season to the students, and they got a late start trying to sell those tickets. Nice job athletic department!

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