If the story of the current Nashville Predators ownership group (which took control in 2007) is one of impressive growth in the overall business at Bridgestone Arena, that progress has taken a hit on hockey nights over the last couple years, as paid attendance at Nashville Predators games has remained below its recent peak during the 2011-12 run.
Whether that's due to lasting damage from the NHL's lockout, which wiped out a large portion of the 2012-13 season, or the subpar performance of the Predators over the last two seasons is hard to say. But make no mistake, the number of paid attendees has taken a step back from 2011-12.
The graph below compares the 26 home games for which I have data this season to the first 26 home dates from the last several NHL campaigns:
Data source: Metro Sports Authority
The bottom line is that through 26 home games, the paid attendance averages from the 2011-12 season to the present read as follows: 15,970 (2011-12), 15,126 (2012-13) and 15,209 (this season).
Last seasons' analysis
Last seasons' analysis
Keep in mind that comparisons between this season and 2012-13 are difficult, because due to the NHL Lockout, the season didn't start until January 19th. Not only did you have a calendar shift, but unique circumstances last season cloud any comparisons (partial season ticket holders were in attendance more often, the team claimed giveaways were up because of commitments based on a full schedule, etc.).
Interestingly, giveaways ("comps") are averaging 1,203 per game, down from 2012-13 but still significantly higher than any of the previous four NHL seasons. Price increases which went into effect for 2012-13 have bolstered the financial results, however, such that per-game gate revenues (after taxes & seat user fees are deducted) are presently up nearly 10% over 2011-12. There are fewer paying customers than a couple years ago, but each is paying more.
We've discussed these issues before, and bvkv09's FanPost on the subject remains relevant and thought-provoking. Despite considerable progress over the years, the Predators are light-years away from enjoying a market like those in major hockey cities like Toronto or New York, where even a losing team can count on fervent fan interest and guaranteed sellouts.
That's what makes the on-ice performance of the team so critical, and why many of us have made calls for change. Nobody wants a return to the dark days of 2007, and the best way to prevent that is to see the Predators assemble a winning team. While tremendous strides have been made in establishing corporate partnerships and keeping Bridgestone Arena humming on non-hockey nights, the foundation of it all is an engaged, growing base of ticket-buying hockey fans.
And it takes more than #grit, hope, and the chance to win a free day at the gym to open those wallets.