The Predators averaged 15,126 in paid attendance this season, which was shortened from 82 games to 48 games - 24 at home - because of the NHL lockout. Nashville had more games with at least 16,000 in paid attendance (seven) than games with 14,000 or less (six).
There were no games for which every ticket was sold - the Predators handed out an average of 1,904 comp tickets per game. Comps are generally given to sponsors, charities, schools, players and others.
In the previous two regular seasons, both with 41 home games, the Predators had higher average paid attendance and lower comp average. In 2011-12 the averages were 16,103 in paid and 646 comp. In 2010-11 they were 15,525 in paid and 650 comp.
Sudden Reversal of Recent Trend
As longtime readers here know, I've taken a look at these numbers over the years as we've seen the fundamentals improve consistently under the local ownership group and the management of Jeff Cogen & Sean Henry.
The following chart pulls together the numbers in Cooper's report along with those I've published here for the 2008-9 and 2009-10 seasons:
The "Giveaways" column is stunning, recalling accusations from years past that crowd sizes in Nashville weren't a true indicator of the market's success. It certainly undermines all the hype over the team's sellout streak this season.
Perhaps what's most surprising to me here is that the paid attendance numbers weren't up significantly, due to an increased presence of partial season ticket holders in the building each night. Take, for example, someone like myself who buys a 12-pack for each season. In a normal year, I watch about 1/4th of the games from the stands, so on an average night, 1/4 of the 12-pack purchasers are in the house.
This season, however, I still got 12 games, so I was there half the time. On average, half of the 12-game purchasers were in the building each game - twice as many as usual.
And the same goes for you half-season ticket holders, who this season had tickets to the full schedule.
That should have provided strong support for continued improvement in per-game paid attendance, but instead we've seen a stark reversal.
Possible Explanatory Factors
The Lockout Turned Away Fans: Did the lockout cause fans to leave the game in droves, never to return? While there was a lot of talk about that last fall, there's scant evidence that this attitude was widespread.
The Team Stunk: The Predators had their worst season in ages this year, but things only turned dismal over the final month of the campaign, as a number of major players were injured and the team sunk out of playoff contention. That explanation might affect the later games in the schedule to a minor extent, but the vast majority of tickets were sold long before then.
The Lockout Impacted the Sales Effort: Since the schedule only came out only one week before the puck dropped on the season, the team didn't have weeks & months to put together packages and sell specific games as hard as they normally do. This indeed could have played a major role, especially during January & February.
What's Your Reaction?
Are you surprised by Cooper's report today? If so, do you chalk this up to a one-off goofball season, or are there challenges ahead in Smashville?
One guy who's probably not surprised? bvkv09, who wrote this FanPost back in April.