OK, back to hockey blogging.
The NHL has been trumpeting their attendance numbers for October, numbers the league said were record breaking.
Even looking at the attendance numbers for all 30 clubs provided by ESPN, things do seem quite rosy. How can a league complain about having 10 teams playing to capacity crowds every night? I originally dismissed Tom Benjamin's usual crankiness on the issue — when it's so omnipresent, it's hard to know sometimes when he's raving about something legitimate — but the old guy may be on to something when he says the numbers aren't as good as they seem.
Toronto Sun columnist Terry Koshan offered a plausible explanation for the high numbers today on the Fan590 radio station when he said that the numbers in some NHL cities must surely be padded. By way of example, he cited the recent Maple Leafs game in Carolina, a game for which attendance was listed at 13,801.
In Koshan's opinion, the 18,176-seat RBC Centre in Raleigh, North Carolina was half full that night. So, let's say his eyeball estimate is off by a few thousand fans, meaning there could have been perhaps 11,000 fans in the seats for the game, the sixth home date for the so-far tremendously successful Hurricanes this year.
Watching any NHL highlights from games in Raleigh, it'd be hard to argue with that number — and what looks like a half-full lower bowl.
Now, the thing is, the Hurricanes are currently 22nd in NHL attendance, meaning that their predicament six games into their home schedule is far from the worst. And, if their true attendance numbers are actually much worse than those listed, one wonders what sort of trouble the teams at the bottom (Washington, NY Islanders and Anaheim) are really in.
A game that lots of people are going to and enjoying is an easy sell for league commissioner Gary Bettman to make. Sitting in half-full rinks with overpriced tickets isn't.