8 NHL Teams Who Could Face Attendance Issues Due to the Lockout

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2013

8 NHL Teams Who Could Face Attendance Issues Due to the Lockout

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    There was plenty of anger from fans during the four-month NHL lockout, and that was directed toward the owners and players, as well as Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr.

    Many fans were filled with bitterness and promised to stay away from NHL games when the lockout finally ended.

    The league is hoping those are empty threats. It believes apologies and inducements will push fans to come back and pay high prices to see games.

    That's quite likely in established markets like Montreal, Vancouver and Detroit.

    But what about the markets where the NHL is not an automatic sellout? The following eight teams could struggle with attendance.

Nashville Predators

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    The Predators are the little team that can.

    They have built one of the most consistent regular season teams and have advanced to the second round of the playoffs twice in the last three seasons.

    However, they lost defenseman Ryan Suter in the offseason and came close to losing captain Shea Weber.

    The Preds have limited financial resources, and fans that have supported the team may not come back right away.

    Last year, the Preds averaged 16,690 fans per home game, a figure that represented 97.5 percent of capacity.

    The fans may show their resentment this year, and attendance could be an issue after losing Suter and half of the regular season.

St. Louis Blues

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    The St. Louis Blues were one of the best stories in the NHL last year, rising to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference after Ken Hitchcock became head coach.

    The fans came out in huge numbers, averaging 18,809 fans per game, and the Blues played to 98.2 percent capacity.

    If you go back to the 2005-06 season, which was the year after the NHL locked out its players for a full season, St. Louis fans were angry.

    The Blues suffered a 23 percent attendance drop that year (source: Forbes.com), more than any other team in the league.

    Conservative, midwestern fans were upset about the lockout the previous year and the Blues also had a sluggish team that year.

    While the Blues are not going to be terrible this year, fans may not be as quick to embrace them, particularly if they get off to a less than stellar start.

Florida Panthers

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    The Florida Panthers are coming off a surprising season in which they finished first in the Southeast Division in the Eastern Conference.

    However, they are a long way from being an established sports presence in the Miami metropolitan area.

    The Panthers averaged 16,628 fans per home game, a figure that represented 86.8 percent of capacity.

    The Panthers had some momentum built up in a very tough sports market, but that momentum has disappeared.

Anaheim Ducks

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    The 2007 Stanley Cup champions have hit some hard times.

    The Anaheim Ducks did not even make the playoffs last year. At the same time, the rival Los Angeles Kings went on a roll and captured their first Stanley Cup.

    The Ducks have to fight and scratch for every bit of publicity and coverage they can get.

    The Ducks averaged 14,760 fans as home games last year, a figure that represented 86.4 percent of capacity.

    If the team struggles to win games early, the Ducks may be ignored in Southern California.

Colorado Avalanche

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    The Avs have a young team with up-and-coming superstar Gabriel Landeskog leading the way.

    While they may not be mature enough to end up with a playoff spot at the end of the season, they have some legitimate hope for the future with Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Erik Johnson manning key roles.

    However, the Avs have a difficult time selling tickets under the best of circumstances. They averaged 15,498 fans per home game last year, 86.1 percent of capacity.

    It's going to be difficult to build on those figures coming out of the lockout.

Dallas Stars

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    The Dallas Stars have been out of the playoffs since the 2007-08 season.

    The Stars were close last year as they remained in contention until the final days of the season, but they didn't get there.

    GM Joe Nieuwendyk added 40-year-old free agents Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney during the offseason to give the Stars a more prolific roster.

    The fans in Dallas have not always taken the Stars to their heart. They averaged 14,226 fans per game, 76.1 percent of capacity. If they don't get off to a hot start, those attendance figures may not be what management wants them to be after the damaging lockout.

New York Islanders

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    The New York Islanders are the third team in the New York metropolitan area market behind the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils.

    The Islanders are up against it in the Atlantic Division, as they are trying to survive against the Rangers, Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

    The Islanders are not up to the competition at this point. They will soon be moving to Brooklyn (source: CBSNewYork.com), so the fans in Long Island may not respond.

    The Islanders averaged 13,191 fans per home game last year and that represented 81.3 percent of capacity.

    With the impending move and the end of the lockout, fans may not respond to the Islanders this season.

Phoenix Coyotes

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    It looks like the Phoenix Coyotes are getting close to having a new owner in Greg Jamison and a new lease agreement with the city of Glendale, Ariz.

    If Jamison closes his deal with the NHL and the lease gets final approval, then the Coyotes should be good to go.

    However, then the team must match last year's success if they want to attract fans. Forward Shane Doan suggested that Phoenix fans would not be angry over the lockout (source: azcentral.com), but the team's instability issues remain.

    Last year, the Coyotes averaged 12,420 per home game, 72.1 percent of capacity.

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