Nashville Predators Paid Attendance: Slowly Recovering from the Events of 2012

Was it the downfall of the Nashville Predators following the departure of free agent Ryan Suter in July 2012, or the NHL Lockout which wiped out a portion of the 2012-13 season?

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

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.