The hockey fans of Raleigh are steadily migrating back to PNC Arena as the Carolina Hurricanes gradually improve their record.
The 'Canes drew crowds of more than 16,500 to five of their seven games since Dec. 20 to rally their season average from 14,974 to 15,403 per game in 2013-14.
Despite losing all three holiday home games, the 'Canes were a hot Christmas attraction around the Triangle—17,737 traveled to see the rival Capitals in town on Dec. 20, then 18,124 took in Sidney Crosby and the Penguins (the Hurricanes' highest attendance since opening night) on Dec. 27.
The Hurricanes' following hot streak kept observers around even after the conclusion of the holiday season.
Enticed by the offer of a free ticket to Raleigh's First Night celebration after the game, 16,807 watched Carolina's dramatic comeback win on New Year's Eve over Montreal. A crowd of 16,583 then populated PNC Arena last Thursday as the 'Canes routed the Maple Leafs for their fifth consecutive victory.
15,276 took in Carolina's dispiriting loss to Calgary, but considering the circumstances—one of the league's worst teams on a Monday—it wasn't a poor turnout.
A game-by-game graph of 'Canes attendance can be seen below:
After following the general pattern of attendance set in the last 82-game season of 2011-12, Carolina's recent uptick rises sharply away from 2011-12's pace and indicates a strong second half to come.
Carolina averaged just a hair under 16,000 per game during four home contests between Dec. 21 and 29 of 2011.
And while the Hurricanes still place in the bottom quarter of the league in attendance, such "poor support" must be taken with a grain of salt.
The Raleigh metropolitan area—the Triangle—is the sixth-smallest of the 27 areas covered by the NHL. For a relatively small, Southern city with only 17 years of NHL history, Raleigh supports its continually mediocre hockey franchise quite admirably.
As the 'Canes continue their battle for their first postseason appearance since 2009, the short trend of PNC Arena hockey attendance looks to be a positive factor down the stretch.