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Yesterday Jes Golbez from the NHL fanhouse asked this question. Well asked is kind of a polite way of saying, took that rhetorical question as a way to try and put Avs fans in their place as not good hockey fans. He obviously didn't do any research though because he also would have realized that 487 consecutive is almost 12 regular seasons worth of sellouts, and not 6 like he claimed (he has since updated it). Also anyone who has watched the Avs on Center Ice in the last 3 seasons, at least, gotten the Avs announcers, would know that the Avs have their own cable company, and don't broadcast on FoxSports. Something like that, which would actually strengthen his argument, shows he was really just looking to trash the fans of his "rival" Canucks. His entire blog post was in response to a Mike Chambers story in the Denver Post. Well I thought Chambers did a decent job of outlining the problems, more options, lockout fence mending, price of tickets in a down economy, and less stars.

Golbez dismissed these reasons as bunk and basically called Avs fans a bunch of band-wagoners. Certainly that is a big reason winning breeds fans, this is over any sport, city, or location. Why do you find more Manchester United fans than Bolton fans in the EPL over here in the states, because Man U. wins. It's really that easy. So yes Band-wagonism obviously has something to do with it. Yes Colorado has a potential winner this season, but last season was a mediocre season where the Avs missed the playoffs. Yes these attendance numbers partially reflect that.

Here's where Golbez's reasoning lacks flaws.
Post-lockout "fence mending" with fans that continues to this day.
What 'fence mending' doth thou speakest? Most NHL fans are well over the lockout, and are more interested in the latest Chris Simon' thuggery than NHLPA/NHL negotiations from a few years back. If you are a hockey fan, chances are that a simple lockout didn't exactly turn you off of NHL hockey for good. Hockey is back, the games are played ... it's that simple.
Sorry it's not that simple. Yes hockey fans are back, but not all hockey fans. Denver is the smallest US city with 4 professional sports teams. Cities like New York, Philly and Boston can shake the adverse effects of a strike quite easily, due to the massive population, but smaller 4 sport towns, like Denver and Detroit will take a longer time to heal those wounds. Here are the US cities with 4 major sports (their population, metro populations as of Jan 1 '06), Attendance average (% Capacity):
  • New York (18.8M) -
    • Rangers 18,200 (100%)
    • Islanders 13,573 (83.3%)
    • Devils 15, 312 (86.9%)
  • Boston (4.45M)
    • Bruins 14,478 (77.7%)
  • Philly (5.82M)
    • Flyers 19,483 (99.9%)
  • Chicago (9.5M)
    • Blackhawks 13,573 (66.2%)
  • Dallas (6.0M)
    • Stars 17,583 (94.9%)
  • Bay Area (5.9M)
    • Sharks 17,417 (99.6)
  • Miami (5.46M)
    • Panthers 13,793 (71.7%)
  • Detroit (4.47M)
    • Red Wings 18,281 (91.1%)
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (3.17M)
    • Wild 18,470 (102.2%)
  • Phoenix (4.03M)
    • Coyotes 14,988 (85.6%)
  • Denver (2.41M)
    • Avs 16,436 (91.3%)
Let's look at those numbers of the towns with 4 major pro sports teams (i.e. more competition for the Ent $) the Avs have the smallest population by at LEAST 2M people. What this means is that if there is some event that would cause a nationwide decrease in attendance (lockout, falling economy, media coverage), and help the competition (i.e. other sports) it would potentially affect the Avalanche orginization more than any other team in the league. If you compare the attendance per game to the metro population here is the % or the cities population that attends each game (discounting the Rangers and Wild since they fill the arena and can't seat any more fans) here's the numbers:

Team Population (k)* Attendance (k) % Pop/game
Avalanche 2410 16.4 0.68
Red Wings 4470 18.3 0.41
Coyotes 4030 15 0.37
Flyers 5820 19.5 0.34
Bruins 4450 14.4 0.32
Sharks 5900 17.4 0.29
Stars 6000 17.6 0.29
Panthers 5460 13.8 0.25
Devils 6267 15.3 0.24
Islanders 6267 13.5 0.22
Blackhawks 9500 13.6 0.14

Look at the a higher % of the cities population turns out for Avs games than for any other team with similar intra-city competition (again minus the Rangers and Wild). (*To be fair I used 18.8M/3 for both the Devils and Islanders population since NY shares 3 teams).

While fair criticism can be levied that the last 2 season the Avs had excellent attendance and it isn't until this season the attendance dropped. I think that is a tribute, not a detriment, to the Avs fans. We basically gave the Avs a 2-year grace period because the franchise has been tremendous to the city. But the lockout, combined with the competition of 3 other major sports (all three of whom have been playing during the Avs season), medicority of the Avs post-lockout, struggling economy, and rising price of tickets is the real reasons for the attendance dip.

Basically things are as bad for the Avs as they can possibly be, and they are STILL averaging over 90% capacity. (By the way this is why I'm not hard on Red Wings fans either, they have it even worse than Avs fans and as you can see above they are still selling tickets relative to their situation just as well as anyone).

EDIT: Somehow I left out Minneapolis/St. Paul and Phoenix as metropolitans with 4 teams (even though The Cardinals hardly count). I have updated the post to reflect those teams as well. I also updated the post to include something I had originally intended to put in, and left out.