Bums on Seats!

If you follow me on twitter you may have seen that during the last couple of hockey seasons, certainly more so this season, my twitter feed has become a breeding ground for charts complied from EIHL stats, I’ve got all sorts going on but one subject that seemed to get a fair bit of attention was my attendance graph and the more I thought about it the more I thought I might have to blog about this rather than simply tweeting about it. Because the tab on my spreadsheet containing all of this information was already quite cluttered and since the end of the season it’s turned into a monster as there are a billion things you can do with data and a billion ways you can display it.

I don’t hold any qualifications in any statistical field and everything I’ve done has been created in excel, in which I’m self-taught with a little help from Google so I’m not going to go into ‘next level’ analysis or be able to draw any ground-breaking conclusions from any of this but I’m hoping it will prove interesting to more people than just me, otherwise what was the point of putting this blog together eh?
It’s quite lengthy so bear with me, I’ve put some pictures in to break up my waffling!

So, here’s where it started (I suspect you’ll have to zoom in, I don’t think it’s going to render well!):


There’s a lot of pride when there’s a sold-out rink or arena and rightly so because if you’ve filled your barn that means you’re doing something right.  We can have the debate about bums on seats versus PAID bums on seats another time, in terms of actual people in the building I wanted to know how close teams were to achieving potential capacity.
I put this graph out somewhere towards the middle of the season and after a couple of visual errors it was fairly well received.

It probably wasn’t any big surprise that the Devils were top of this proverbial shop, I’ve seen a fair few social media posts and heard some discussions along the lines that their rink would benefit from being bigger, Todd Kelman says they’re happy with the capacity and with the attendance being 96% over the course of the season there’s an argument to be made for both sides.  You could argue that it could be bigger because, well, it’s at 96%, it’s practically sold out every game, think of the extra ticket money but the Devils management could probably argue that until it’s at 100% it is ok as it is.

Anyone shocked that the now demised Edinburgh Capitals are taking the wooden spoon here as well as in the league standings? Didn’t think so.
It’s not hard to see where the trouble starts for them, paid bums on seats are the bread and butter of your revenue stream and if you can’t get that to a decent level when the rink, spatially speaking of course, gives you the potential to do so then that’s obviously going to hit you where it hurts.

I was asked when I first put the main graph up on twitter if I was able to add the previous season’s data to it and although I haven’t included that particular graph in here, it was a worthwhile measure to see if teams are improving.

Here’s how everyone, with the exception of Guildford and MK, did compared to the previous season:


A quick note for the Steelers fans, the numbers have been adjusted for Ice Sheffield!

Belfast Giants

Belfast Main

A few eyes widened when the fixtures came out and everyone saw the massive run of home fixtures that the Giants had in the second half of the season and while that might have been nice for the team to not travel so much in the business end, it’s obvious that attendance suffered as a result.

A question for the other 11 fanbases, who loves going on a Belfast double header?  Yep, me too, but, think about it from the perspective of a Giants fan, if you have a season ticket it’s perhaps not so much of a problem financially as you’ve already paid for your games but if you’re not then two games in a weekend is probably a push never mind two games in a weekend for 3 months!  I travelled for the double header in January, Friday was loaded with kids to our left and it was necessary to get them in as the crowd was quite sparse, Saturday was certainly a healthier crowd in terms of numbers and if any of the school kids were there then it looked more like the parents had joined them, the mix of ages was more even.

I get that the fixtures had to be done that way to make way for the Friendship Four and the general arena events but it certainly wasn’t ideal for the fans and this season they’ve got to shoehorn the Continental Cup into the mix too.  (FYI Giants fans, if your Conti Cup stage is anything like the one we hosted, you’re going to have a ball!  Good luck and do the league proud!)


This total attendances are all over the place, one thing that strikes me immediately is that in 2 games against the Flames only 2332 less fans attended than in 4 games against the Panthers, I’d venture that another game against the Flames would have eclipsed that attendance no matter what day of the week it was played on!  Although it’s worth noting that only one game against the Panthers was played on a Saturday.

The attendance for Milton Keynes won’t have been helped by the snow postponed game, the Lightning still had hopes of making Playoffs when the game was originally scheduled, they were out of it when the game actually came around.

While on the gameday chart it doesn’t look like much of a difference at first glance, the drop from Saturday to Sunday is quite significant in terms of actual numbers so avoiding that day as a gameday is a good call from the Giants.
Sunday isn’t a good day to be a travelling hockey fan in Belfast anyway, last time I was over there for a Saturday/Sunday double header nothing was open and Pizza Hut had to supply my post-Rockies breakfast!

Braehead Clan

Braehead Main

Yes, the BRAEHEAD Clan, next year will be different but this is about the season past, only time will tell if the new name will give them more appeal and get more bums on seats!
There’s always something that gets booked in Braehead Arena that means the Clan have to go on the road for a whole month, in the 16/17 season it didn’t seem to make much of a difference and I suspect it didn’t really have much to do with it last season either.  There’s nothing like a poor run of results to ensure a fanbase keeps their money in their pocket.  January seems to have had a ‘New Year, New Me’ effect, I’m not sure what other explanation there is, answers on a postcard Clan fans!


Games against the Flyers proved the most popular for the Clan, it was reciprocal too, to be fair they were probably the most competitive in the Gardiner Conference so it stands to reason that these would be the ones you would go to if you weren’t a season ticket holder.  Away fans may also have some sway in the numbers on account of the Flyers having more fans to bring than Dundee or Edinburgh!
I did expect the numbers in the games against the Storm to be more convincing on account of them still fighting over the colour purple and Clangus!

Apparently Sunday games should be avoided like the plague by the Clan and once again Saturday appears to be hockey night.
The one Tuesday game was on Boxing Day against the Giants but I’d be surprised if there was a large travelling contingent given the bank holiday and it being a midweek game.

Cardiff Devils

Cardiff Main

I’ve waxed some lyrical on the Devils and the arguments for and against an expansion of their rink but the main story here is that the Devils are doing well, the team on the ice is delivering, the management have a good relationship with the fans and, aside from some gripes over a couple of early face offs they all seem to be very happy in South Wales right now.


For each of Cardiff’s opponents there was at least one full sell out except for Guildford, Manchester and Braehead with one of Guildford and Manchester’s games being on a Sunday and the other being midweek for both teams.
One of the Clan games was on a Saturday and wasn’t a sell-out, what were you playing at Devils fans?! 😉

The one Tuesday home game was against the Blaze on Boxing day so we have a set of fans who like to recover from their turkey hangover with a trip to the rink, take that away and it would appear that Saturday is the day of choice for the Devils fans with Sunday still enjoying a healthy attendance, time will tell if the experimental 4pm face offs have any bearing on this figure.

Coventry Blaze

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I love a jolly down to Coventry, not because I like Coventry per-se, I like the trip for the hockey and I can’t really explain it to be honest, I just do.  I don’t think I saw the Panthers win there before the league winning season but I still enjoyed the trip and the Skydome always felt full or close to it.  As I wasn’t there I’ll have to speculate but I’m willing to bet that in the days of the Blaze being a British Ice Hockey powerhouse they enjoyed some healthy/sell-out attendances but that’s before my time so it’s pure speculation.

The last time I went was in the 16/17 season and it was clear that while the faithful are, well… keeping the faith, the Blaze aren’t enjoying the attendances they once were but then they have had some disappointing seasons if you compare them to their heyday.  It makes a difference.


Coventry were appropriately placed in a conference with the two new southern based teams and they’ve had healthy attendances when hosting them but the averages tell an interesting story and/or perhaps raise some interesting questions.  Do the Blaze fans prefer to watch their team play Erhardt opposition or do the Erhardt fans travel in more numbers?  Would their Patton Conference counterparts travel in more numbers if they had an equal, i.e. less, number of games to go to?  That’s a question we’ll be able to answer this time next year.

Alphabetically Coventry are the first team to buck the trend of Saturday night hockey nights, Monday was a New Year’s Day game against the Panthers and the Wednesday average was boosted by a visit in the Christmas period by the Cardiff Devils.

Dundee Stars

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I’ve given the Stars a fair bit of stick in the past for their poor attendances, it frustrated me no end that they had this great rink and weren’t doing everything they could to pack it out, if they could then they’d be in a better position to grow.

Halfway through the season it happened, whatever they did worked, attendances almost doubled and they’ve finished up with 50% capacity, the battle now is to maintain and better that, fingers crossed!


Fife and Dundee are pretty close to each other so it’s reasonable to assume that the Flyers fans did have some say in the rocketing average, all of those games were also post ‘attendance boom’ so perhaps coincided with the influx of new Stars fans.
Both games against the Panthers were during Scottish triple headers which has skewed the Erhardt figures, I know there were at least two coaches put on by Panthers travel for each and probably as many independent travellers, we do love a trip north of the wall!

The Tuesday game in Dundee was on that extra day the Scottish get to recover from New Year’s Eve (You lucky, lucky people!) and is a pretty impressive attendance considering that the next day was ‘back to work day’.  Other than that, any weekend day seems to be a good day for hockey in Dundee and that can only be a positive.

Edinburgh Capitals

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It’s a shame but not really a surprise that Elite League hockey in Edinburgh has imploded, had the Racers been accepted into the league they’d have had an uphill battle on their hands because while that rink remains neglected it’s a significant barrier.  That’s before you consider building a fanbase from a city that largely don’t know the rink exists, don’t know the team exists or do know about both and don’t want anything to do with you.

There’s only four games in the last two seasons that broke the 1000 mark and there are seats in there that have visible dust on them which look like they haven’t been sat on in my lifetime.  The people voted with their feet and it just wasn’t sustainable.


Paul Balm told me a story from when he went on a Scottish hockey trip a few years back and unusually the game in Edinburgh was on a Saturday, following the game the group came upon a man in a Capitals hat who asked them what the score was, when Paul asked him why he wasn’t at the game he said, “I don’t go on Saturdays, hockey night is Sunday”.

That sort of thing probably explains the disproportionate amount of Sunday home games but if that’s what your (dwindling) fanbase wants then that’s what you should try to accommodate.  I did briefly wonder if a determination to resolutely stick to the ‘Sunday night is hockey night’ attitude was a contributory factor in the lack of crowd numbers, but then again, the average of the three Saturday games would rubbish that quite quickly.  If they had made the shift, could it have brought about some badly needed change?  We might never know now.

Fife Flyers

Fife Main

When the results started to pick up for the Flyers in January, so did the attendance, that’s not rocket science, it’s no fun watching your team lose.  Unfortunately the sharp upwards spike in January and February didn’t equate to a gain in the average attendance.


I don’t think there’s much to be surprised about in the averages against each opponents, I mentioned above that the Braehead attendance against the Flyers was reciprocal, perhaps that’s the new Gardiner Conference rivalry, even though there was the rivalry with the Capitals they didn’t offer much resistance and as a consequence I suspect the bite was taken out of it.

I don’t think the Flyers fan base would be too impressed with regular midweek games and while there is a slight bias for Saturday games, it would appear that other game days are acceptable.

Guildford Flames

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It’ll be interesting to see how this looks next season, there seemed to be some uncertainty in the camp at the beginning of the season but it picked up and the result on average is a decent benchmark.  Achieving 88% capacity over the course of a season when you’re making your first foray into a new league must be encouraging for the organisation, this coupled with results achieved on the ice would indicate that the step up to the Elite League was a good decision for them.


I would have expected the attendance in games against the Lightning to be more prevalent, perhaps a switch around of the games against the Storm, and I suspect the dip in Dundee’s attendance might be a result of the rescheduled game following the ice plant failure, I wouldn’t be keen to make that journey again if I were a Stars fan.  I can’t quite fathom the Capitals games out though, I think it’s safe to say the away fans didn’t have much to do with it so what the heck was that all about?

In terms of gamedays, Saturday is hockey night in Guildford, nuff said!

Manchester Storm

Manchester Main

It’s good to see the success of the Storm continue but they do seem to know what they’re doing, the fan base is excited and more importantly, it’s growing.  A good season obviously helps and they have the potential to do more to a point, if they grow much more they’re going to outgrow that rink and I hope they have somewhere to take it when they do.  It would be nice to see the Storm in a rink or arena with decent sightlines!


The Storm’s in-conference averages are a little disappointing but I suspect they’re getting the short end of the location stick, they’re in a balanced conference but not geographically.  Location and the War of the Roses has played a part in an impressive attendance against the Steelers, I don’t think it’s eclipsing the biggest rivalry in Europe just yet though!

Taking out the Monday game, which was a New Year’s Eve sell out against the Steelers, it seems that if the Storm are playing a game, the fans will turn up.

Milton Keynes Lightning

MK Main

I’d be interested to compare these figures with the EPIHL attendances as I was expecting a similar percentage of capacity as Guildford’s but it was notably lower at just 58%, the capacity of the rinks isn’t too dissimilar and although I didn’t get to Guildford’s rink this season, when I went to Milton Keynes, despite the Panthers fans travelling well, it still felt like a healthy home attendance.  It is encouraging though that even though the results started tailing off towards the end of the season, the attendance went up.  Hopefully they can keep that momentum going.


When looking at these charts I can’t help but wonder if next season might see the conference games better attended.  Similarly to the speculation I made about Coventry, if there were less games against the conference rivals, would they be better attended, is there a little stagnation?  The Panthers fans travelled well, I was amongst them for one of the games against the Lightning, but it looks like either the Steelers fans travelled better or the games were extra well attended by the Milton Keynes fans.

Both games against the Capitals were on a Wednesday which gave them little hope of standing out for the right reasons but then the average attendance against the Clan was worse, something of a surprise frankly!

There doesn’t appear to be much of a pattern with the days, Saturday is sort of a standout but at the same time the third worst attendance was on a Saturday behind a Wednesday game versus Guildford and a Sunday game against Braehead, I suspect a shift from Saturday games wouldn’t be well received though as it is the favourite.

Nottingham Panthers

Nottingham Main

I forget the actual wording but the Panthers organisation stated something along the lines of attendance being up on last year but I suppose it depends what you’re counting.  In terms of actual numbers of people coming through the door we were up but having two extra games will help that particular statistic, I imagine we’ll be up next year with another two games on top of that.  In terms of average attendance per game though, we were slightly down, less than 1%, although I have zero explanation for December, that was the month when it all went wrong but apparently we were glutton for punishment!


Of course the greatest rivalry on the planet stands out here, we still also have a healthy rivalry with the Blaze despite the lack of games or perhaps, like the Blaze-Devils rivalry, because of it, but the attendance against them does look like it would keep pace, given that there are an even number of games against each opponent this coming season it looks like we’ll find out!

Speaking as a Panthers fan I can conclusively say that Saturday night is hockey night in the general mentality of the fanbase but other nights are still pretty well attended in terms of league games.  It’s been quite interesting compiling this in terms of seeing where the preferences of other fanbases sit.

Sheffield Steelers

Sheffield Main

It’s not as straightforward putting the numbers together for Sheffield as it is for everyone else because of Ice Sheffield but the good news is that there were less games in the en-suite last season than there were the season before and the Steelers were one of the few teams who managed to get their average attendance up on the previous season and by some margin too.


I decided to try something different here to account for the aforementioned Ice Sheffield situation, both Dundee games and one of the Milton Keynes games were played in there so it skews the figures slightly, if Ice Sheffield weren’t an option then the difference could perhaps be more comparable.

Sheffield IS

I figured it was easy enough just to double the arena attendance for Braehead and Milton Keynes but with both games against Dundee being played in Ice Sheffield I’d have to go back to the previous season and use that attendance.  But, wait, both of those games were also played in Ice Sheffield, like the Panthers fans have virtually never seen the interior of Ice Sheffield (save for one very memorable 8-0 defeat, sorry, couldn’t resist!) the Stars fans don’t get to see the inside of Sheffield Arena!
Anyway, I figured the easiest thing to do in this case was to double the average conference attendance to make it all a little more even.
And of course, there is the biggest rivalry in the universe that sticks out like a sore thumb!

Sheffield have a definite leaning to Saturday and weekday games often equate to an Ice Sheffield appearance which brings those numbers down significantly!

Final Word!

So that’s everyone covered, hopefully you started reading this because you were interested, when you finished reading it you were still interested and it didn’t send you to sleep!

I didn’t do analysis that was anything close to this last year but now that the tab is set up on my spreadsheet I can attempt to look at this next year in the same sort of detail.
The most interesting part about next season’s attendance is that we’re going to be playing an equal amount of games against each other so any theoretical discussion about the potential attendance of cross conference games will be unnecessary.

Another thing that I’m hoping to touch on next year is the impact of games shown on Freesports, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get much from it but we have this lovely new TV deal which will see two games a month on the telebox.  One of the justifications we hear from teams who don’t do webcasts is that it will have an adverse effect on ‘bums on seats’ so they must not be a fan of it but doesn’t more exposure equal more interest?

But I digress, the games shown on Freesports will be rotating between each rink and so the home team will only be shown perhaps a couple of times a season and, certainly from my perspective, if I’m going to a game, it doesn’t matter to me if it’s on TV or a webcast, I’ll be going and I hope that next season’s attendance figures show that most hockey fans have that sort of mentality so we can drop this assertion that keeping ice hockey the UK’s ‘best kept sporting secret’ is the best way to keep it going.

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