Where are all the Avs Fans? I'll tell you

Yesterday Jes Golbez from the NHL fanhouse asked this question. Well asked is kind of a polite way of saying, took that rhetorical question as a way to try and put Avs fans in their place as not good hockey fans. He obviously didn't do any research though because he also would have realized that 487 consecutive is almost 12 regular seasons worth of sellouts, and not 6 like he claimed (he has since updated it). Also anyone who has watched the Avs on Center Ice in the last 3 seasons, at least, gotten the Avs announcers, would know that the Avs have their own cable company, and don't broadcast on FoxSports. Something like that, which would actually strengthen his argument, shows he was really just looking to trash the fans of his "rival" Canucks. His entire blog post was in response to a Mike Chambers story in the Denver Post. Well I thought Chambers did a decent job of outlining the problems, more options, lockout fence mending, price of tickets in a down economy, and less stars.

Golbez dismissed these reasons as bunk and basically called Avs fans a bunch of band-wagoners. Certainly that is a big reason winning breeds fans, this is over any sport, city, or location. Why do you find more Manchester United fans than Bolton fans in the EPL over here in the states, because Man U. wins. It's really that easy. So yes Band-wagonism obviously has something to do with it. Yes Colorado has a potential winner this season, but last season was a mediocre season where the Avs missed the playoffs. Yes these attendance numbers partially reflect that.

Here's where Golbez's reasoning lacks flaws.
Post-lockout "fence mending" with fans that continues to this day.
What 'fence mending' doth thou speakest? Most NHL fans are well over the lockout, and are more interested in the latest Chris Simon' thuggery than NHLPA/NHL negotiations from a few years back. If you are a hockey fan, chances are that a simple lockout didn't exactly turn you off of NHL hockey for good. Hockey is back, the games are played ... it's that simple.
Sorry it's not that simple. Yes hockey fans are back, but not all hockey fans. Denver is the smallest US city with 4 professional sports teams. Cities like New York, Philly and Boston can shake the adverse effects of a strike quite easily, due to the massive population, but smaller 4 sport towns, like Denver and Detroit will take a longer time to heal those wounds. Here are the US cities with 4 major sports (their population, metro populations as of Jan 1 '06), Attendance average (% Capacity):
  • New York (18.8M) -
    • Rangers 18,200 (100%)
    • Islanders 13,573 (83.3%)
    • Devils 15, 312 (86.9%)
  • Boston (4.45M)
    • Bruins 14,478 (77.7%)
  • Philly (5.82M)
    • Flyers 19,483 (99.9%)
  • Chicago (9.5M)
    • Blackhawks 13,573 (66.2%)
  • Dallas (6.0M)
    • Stars 17,583 (94.9%)
  • Bay Area (5.9M)
    • Sharks 17,417 (99.6)
  • Miami (5.46M)
    • Panthers 13,793 (71.7%)
  • Detroit (4.47M)
    • Red Wings 18,281 (91.1%)
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (3.17M)
    • Wild 18,470 (102.2%)
  • Phoenix (4.03M)
    • Coyotes 14,988 (85.6%)
  • Denver (2.41M)
    • Avs 16,436 (91.3%)
Let's look at those numbers of the towns with 4 major pro sports teams (i.e. more competition for the Ent $) the Avs have the smallest population by at LEAST 2M people. What this means is that if there is some event that would cause a nationwide decrease in attendance (lockout, falling economy, media coverage), and help the competition (i.e. other sports) it would potentially affect the Avalanche orginization more than any other team in the league. If you compare the attendance per game to the metro population here is the % or the cities population that attends each game (discounting the Rangers and Wild since they fill the arena and can't seat any more fans) here's the numbers:

Team Population (k)* Attendance (k) % Pop/game
Avalanche 2410 16.4 0.68
Red Wings 4470 18.3 0.41
Coyotes 4030 15 0.37
Flyers 5820 19.5 0.34
Bruins 4450 14.4 0.32
Sharks 5900 17.4 0.29
Stars 6000 17.6 0.29
Panthers 5460 13.8 0.25
Devils 6267 15.3 0.24
Islanders 6267 13.5 0.22
Blackhawks 9500 13.6 0.14

Look at the a higher % of the cities population turns out for Avs games than for any other team with similar intra-city competition (again minus the Rangers and Wild). (*To be fair I used 18.8M/3 for both the Devils and Islanders population since NY shares 3 teams).

While fair criticism can be levied that the last 2 season the Avs had excellent attendance and it isn't until this season the attendance dropped. I think that is a tribute, not a detriment, to the Avs fans. We basically gave the Avs a 2-year grace period because the franchise has been tremendous to the city. But the lockout, combined with the competition of 3 other major sports (all three of whom have been playing during the Avs season), medicority of the Avs post-lockout, struggling economy, and rising price of tickets is the real reasons for the attendance dip.

Basically things are as bad for the Avs as they can possibly be, and they are STILL averaging over 90% capacity. (By the way this is why I'm not hard on Red Wings fans either, they have it even worse than Avs fans and as you can see above they are still selling tickets relative to their situation just as well as anyone).

EDIT: Somehow I left out Minneapolis/St. Paul and Phoenix as metropolitans with 4 teams (even though The Cardinals hardly count). I have updated the post to reflect those teams as well. I also updated the post to include something I had originally intended to put in, and left out.


  1. Good post JS. If you spend any time in Denver and in it's hockey circle then you know what a joke of a post Jes put on Fanhouse. You take the reasoned approach with plenty of research. Me? I blurt out a four paragraph response while I'm still pissed off. For good measure I double posted it.

    Another thing Jes fouls up besides the math on 487 games is that Chambers doesn't actually provide the "excuses". Chambers quotes "Don Hinchey of The Bonham Group, a Denver-based entertainment and sports marketing company". So, it's a guy who follows entertainment in Denver for a living.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. good point, when I began the post i meant to mention it's 10 years for the sellout streak, not 6.

    And I was born and raised in Denver, lived there, (and Co. Springs) until August '03 left and came back in March '05, and left for Cali in Nov. '06. So yeah spending 25-26 years of my almost 28 years in Denver gives me some perspective on it.

    I am always amazed that people forget that the fact that Denver can support 4 teams even though population wise it's on par with Cleveland(3 major teams) Pittsburgh (3 major teams), Tampa (3 Major Teams), and San Diego (2 teams) shows how good Denver is as a sports city.

  4. Come on Jib, tell us how you really feel ;)

    Great post though and good work with the numbers. Must have took a while to put together.

  5. Jibble,

    1. 487/82 = a simple math mistake. They happen, and I fixed it. The # of seasons wasn't meant to be any kind of argument, just a number for number's sake.

    2. The post was more in response to the weak arguments behind declining attendance, more than anything else. For YEARS, all throughout message boards and some blogs, we kept hearing about the sellout streak and how awesome Avs fans were. Well, the original article gave some very weak reasons behind the decline, including ones that have nothing to do with people attending games.

    Give any new city a frickin dynasty and you'll put butts in seats. Yet, Avs fans made it out to be that they were sooo good.

    3. I trash all teams equally, not just the Avs. ;)

    4. I don't see the Avs on Center Ice (don't need to, with the coverage we get), but the fact is that all teams (other than Chi-Town, for now) get their team on local coverage, and having the team on national coverage has no effect on attendance. Why would it matter, to you, if ESPN showed the Avs nationally? This would affect viewership in New York, not butts in the Pepsi Center (or whatever they call it now)

    Anyway, the rebuttal was well thought out, and I put a link to it at the bottom of the original post.

  6. PS: Boy, are Avs fans touchy...well, except my Hockey Rants co-blogger, who is so bogged down in work that he can't get wound up.

  7. Jes,

    Here's the thing, we Avalanche fans have been putting up with high brow put downs for twelve fucking years. This is due to the fact that our division holds a lot of Canadian teams and Minnasota which are the hotbeds of hockey without question. The other is that our main rivalry has been with Detroit Red Wing fans. You cannot imagine how much these people think of their history. When twenty year olds are espousing the history of an original six franchise you just want to go postal.

    Look at the roster of the 1995 Avalanche team and look at the roster of the 2001 Cup Championship team. We were still riding that coat tail? We can be real fans until we suffer through bad seasons? What the hell does it take?

    Put a dynasty in any city and it will put butts in the seats? What's the excuse for the Devils or Tampa Bay? How about Dallas or Detroit? Why haven't those championship clubs led to 10 year sellouts (It's 10 years, not 12 with the 487 games. '95 through the '06 seasons and minus the lockout year of '04. It's 487 because the sell out streak includes all the playoff games). I simply don't buy the argument that the sell out streak is do to being handed a great team.

    Denver is a great hockey market. It's true, this subject gets my blood boiling. The band wagon fan accusation is like a raw, exposed nerve. So, I'll be the first to admit I'm touchy AND I cried during the movie Rudy. I'm like three steps removed from wearing a dress and changing my name to Sally. Sue me.

  8. Jes

    1) Math mistake forgiven, even though 12 years is a bit more impressive than 6.

    2) Avs message boards still have people adamant that Theo should be starting in net and that he's still a good goaltender. That's why I pay no attention to message boards.

    4) You may trash all teams equally, but you get more pleasure from trashing Avs fans, admit it :)

    5) I thought most hockey insiders knew the Avs had the biggest homer announcers in the league (Wyshanski's words not mine).

    And I would say we are touchy because Denver gets a lot of "Denver's not a good sports city" comments across the board, which really isn't true (ESPN centerpiece Bill Simmons ripped Colorado just a few weeks ago in his monster chat)

    So please forgive the inferiority complex a little, because when we have attendance records in two sports (sellout streaks in Hockey, all-time baseball attendance record) yet still get called a poor sports town we get a little defensive.

    I get your point about local vs. National coverage, but the fact is national coverage drives local coverage too. If ESPN says "hockey sucks it's irrelevant "a certain amount of locals will go "Yes ESPN, hockey is bad"

  9. P.P.S I am totally calling Dario Sally from now on

  10. Jibble,

    I love the fact you numbered your arguements 1, 2, 4, 5. I'm also impressed with my ability to spell due as "do". We are shinning examples of the Colorado IQ. Props to us.

  11. 1) Numbered arguments/posts make them easier for the reader to follow. ; )
    2) As for the argument, both parties have legit positions. We discussed NHL attendance last week:
    3) While it certainly can be argued that Colorado's decline in attendance can be attributed a bandwagon mentality,(which we agree exists everywhere), we also agree with the argument made here in comparison to other teams the Avs are ahead of most.
    4) The best comparison would be NJ. They have had similar success the past dozen years, yet have no where near the rabid following the Avalanche possess
    5) We believe the placement of a franchise in NJ was a mistake. NJ is basically a suburb of NY and Philly. Both areas are well represented already with a team, so the Devils never seemed to be able to attain an identity

  12. Valid points all around, and a worthy debate. But I have one issue with something from the Avs' side, which is this notion that the team doesn't have stars anymore to draw fans in (something I think I read on the FanHouse post). Paul Stastny, Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk, Joe Sakic? Yeah, that's a pretty good start. Add in the fact that Colorado management landed two of the biggest free agent prizes in the off-season, and I think that point is moot.

  13. Sally) I had a 3 in there, but deleted it out... whoops (I guess that means I REALLY have to forgive Jes' math mistake).

    I Think the "Star Power" argument ties into the lockout stuff. Before the lockout the Avs had Forsberg, Foote, Sakic, Hejduk, Blake Tanguay, and a whole lot of role players that were well-recognized within Denver because of the Avs prominance.

    After the lockout the Avs only featured Sakic and Hejduk. But the team's look dramatically changed after the lockout, and while Smyth, Hannan, Stastny, and Wolski are certainly stars they haven't had the success (yet) to gain the same household prominence that the previous Avs had.

  14. Faux,

    I actually think the closest comparison with Denver is not NJ, because like you said NJ is prominently tied to NY and Philly. In Denver the next closest hockey team is 900 miles away (St. Louis/Phoenix/Dallas).

    I think a better comparison (in terms of local hockey presence, population, economic stability and local competition) is probably Detroit.