Calgary's Saddledome, home of the HitmenCanadian Hockey League teams that operate out of National Hockey League cities are seeing a boost in attendance—but not by much—after the first quarter of the season. The effect that the lockout had on CHL attendance in 2005 is not being duplicated, as increases in fan interest haven't happened in every market.
First, the good: The Vancouver Giants and Edmonton Oil Kings, who averaged 5,753 and 4,990 fans respectively in their first 11 home games last season, saw their numbers increase to 6,238 and 6,013. The Giants struggled out of the gate, but not for generating interest in a hockey-mad Vancouver, while the Oil Kings benefit from a WHL championship and MasterCard Memorial Cup appearance last season that spurred societal and media interest in junior hockey last season.
However, the Calgary Hitmen and the Ottawa 67's, attendance powerhouses in their leagues, have seen a slight decline in overall attendance to start the season. The 67's can probably pin that on their home games being moved out of Ottawa and over to Scotiabank Place. I cannot find a logical explanation for why the Hitmen haven't increased attendance (averaging 7,752 over 11 games last season to 7,653 this season) even when splitting up weekend games from weekday games.
In Mississauga, where the local team gave itself a face-lift coming into the season, I'm actually a little stunned that attendance hasn't seen an improvement.
In fact, it's fallen off by 10 per cent to start the season, dropping to an average of 2,185 after averaging 2,429 over the first 11 games last season. If they're going to make a push to be above last season's total, it's possible and they'll need to capitalize on the traditional spring and winter attendance boost that the St. Michael's Majors never got last season.
You know how much I like graphs, so here's one, with the total figure:
Gains in Vancouver and Edmonton were bigger than losses in Calgary, Ottawa and Mississauga, so there's an overall 3.2% attendance boost through 11 games (12 for Ottawa) from last season to this season. It's not similar to the effect that we saw back in the 2004-05 lockout, but if the lockout is full season and fans find themselves wanting more in the winter months, well, that could be where the gains are really made.