Although the majority of the focus of the young 2011-12 NHL season thus far has been on Brendan Shanahan and all of the suspensions that have come from illegal hits to the head, it is only a matter of time before the focus shifts to Gary Bettman and the growing number of empty seats in NHL arenas around the country.
6,306. That’s the number of people who were in attendance at American Airlines Center on Monday in Dallas when the Stars took on the Phoenix Coyotes. Now, granted, it’s important to remember that it was a matinee affair that took place on the back end of the Columbus Day weekend. Furthermore, the majority of the sports world in Dallas (and probably all of Texas) was far more concerned with Game 3 of the ALCS between the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers, a game that was being played 20 miles down the road in Arlington at the same time as the Stars game.
However, there is no excuses in generating revenues for professional sports teams, and there is no way to sugarcoat 6,306 people. What’s worse for the NHL is that on that same Monday, just 9,187 watched the Canucks beat the Blue Jackets, 3-2. The crowds on Long Island and in New Jersey were 12,096 and 11,278, respectively.
Again, these were all Monday afternoon games, a rarity in the NHL. And although the season is young, the MLB playoffs are starting to heat up and the NFL is now in full swing, the NHL still can’t hide from the fact that they have several franchises who are struggling to put fans in the seats and money in the bank.
Atlanta was able to make the move to Winnipeg, but there’s not enough room in Canada for all of the NHL’s struggling franchises.