The calls for changes to the conference tournaments are likely to only grow stronger with another year of declining attendance.
The average attendance per session for the 2016 tournaments was down 7 percent over last season, extending a slide over the three years since conference realignment.
The 6,988 average per session this season was down 37 percent from 2013, the last season before the Big Ten and NCHC debuted, the CCHA dissolved and teams scattered.
Keep in mind that these are announced attendance figures, not the actual number of people in the seats. It’s common practice to use the number of tickets sold or distributed as the official attendance figure even if the number of people to actually witness the game in person is a small fraction of that amount.
Announced attendance figures for the 2016 tournaments fell compared to the year before in five of six leagues. Only Hockey East saw an increase.
Here’s a look at the trends since 2000:
WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson told Minneapolis TV station WCCO that he’s pushing for his league to coordinate with the NCHC and the Big Ten to hold their tournaments in the same city on the same weekend.
It remains to be seen what level of interest the other leagues have in that kind of solution. The NCHC has averaged more than 11,000 fans per session at the Target Center in Minneapolis over the last two seasons. The league and arena have two years remaining on a contract.
The Big Ten has one year remaining on its original set of agreements — 2014 and 2016 in St. Paul, Minn., and 2015 and 2017 in Detroit. The WCHA is alternating between Grand Rapids, Mich., and St. Paul.