Empty Seats and Corporate Suites: The NHL's Worst Home Crowds

Josh LewisSenior Analyst IJuly 10, 2008

After giving props to the most electric, spine-tingling home rinks in the NHL yesterday, it's time to take a look at the flip side of the coin: those crowds which, whether due to empty seats or too many sniffy suits, suck all the motivation out of the home side.

Remember, this is not a ranking of the worst fans in the NHL. It's a look at the atmosphere in the league's rinks. Sometimes a team has poor attendance, but the real fans are loud enough to cover for it; other teams have passionate fan bases, but for one reason or another the ambience in their barn is duller than weekday TV at two in the afternoon.

5. TD Banknorth Garden (Boston)

Evidently, the steady stream of sporting success which has taken Beantown by storm in recent years forgot the Bruins. Accordingly, the resurgence of frenzied fans at Fenway, Foxboro and Banknorth basketball has also passed the Bruins by.

Occasional game reports from friends who are Boston fans, as well as Internet accounts, tend to have one thing in common: Bruins games have less ambience than a high school cafeteria after the principal has announced there will be classes on Saturday. Besides, the above photo came from a Bruins game (although I can't lie; there was a snowstorm in Boston that night).

4. Air Canada Centre (Toronto)

Cue the outrage. How could a Leafs fan plunk the best fan base in the NHL on a list like this? Ah, but you forget so easily. Scroll up about 16 lines, read that paragraph again, then come back to me.

Ah, now you start to figure it out. How many years have you been on the waiting list for season tickets? Five? 10? 18? And why have you been forced to wait so long? That would be because of the legions of stuffy corporate types who get free tickets and decide to take in a game because it seems "so quaint, dahling."

Those same suits tend to spend their intermissions drinking wine in their cozy boxes, and when they forget to come back out for the beginning of the next period, the place looks and sounds like a morgue.

It's a shame, because if you were to fill the ACC with diehard Leaf fans (like Oiler fans at Rexall) it would be hands-down the best home rink in the league. Instead, we have a team that consistently struggles at home because of a lack of support.

3. RBC Center (Carolina)

This is the team that used to use low-angled camera perspectives on their television broadcasts to avoid showing the thousands of empty seats. Even worse, the "Hockey 101" section of the Hurricanes' official website gives descriptions and diagrams for such elusive hockey terms as "offside" and "crease."

Sure, the Stanley Cup helped to raise the team's profile a little, but I don't think much of any market or fan base that needs a Cup to get excited about their team.

2. Jobing.com Arena (Phoenix)

Even if the team had great fans, the horrid name of this impersonal cashbox puts it on the list. But there's much more to it than that. Despite season tickets being available for as little as $9 per game, the Coyotes have ranked in the bottom five in NHL attendance four times in the last seven years (including 29th last season), and they have never ranked higher than 19th.

If you can't draw fans to the rink with exciting young players like Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, Keith Ballard and Kyle Turris, you've got a problem. Plus, when I Googled the Jobing.ugh Arena, one of the first results linked it to Nortel. That's never a good thing.

1. Prudential Center (New Jersey)

Devils fans have ranked in the bottom third of the NHL attendance rankings for seven years in a row, despite having one of the best teams in the league over that period. The last time the Devils won the Cup (2002-03) they finished 23rd in league attendance. That's nothing short of pathetic. In fact, if you factor in the capacity of each NHL rink, they finished even worse.

Perhaps it's the legacy of the neutral zone trap, or maybe it's arena location, but it makes little sense that in a place so close to New York, one of the most supportive U.S. hockey markets, a fan base does such a terrible job of backing a very strong team.

Every time I watch the Devils on TV, even during the playoffs, I have to wonder why East Rutherford would put its morgue in the Swamp.

Keep your eyes peeled for next time as I take a look at the worst arena names in the National Hockey League.


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