Today’s article discusses the leading European hockey attendance by each league for 2019-20 regular-season. We witnessed the slight growth of spectators in the following leagues across Europe despite the coronavirus measures.
European Hockey Attendance Grows Despite Coronavirus
So, before reading this piece, I recommend you take a look at my previous articles about European hockey attendance. Here is the summary of the average regular-season Europen hockey attendance for leagues from 2008-09 to 2017-18. And, here, you can read about the average regular-season attendance in those leagues in the 2018-19 season. Just reminding you, I follow just the leading European hockey leagues, namely the KHL, the Swiss National League (formerly NLA), the German DEL, the Swedish SHL, the Czech Extraleague (TELH) and finally, the Finnish Liiga (formerly SM-Liiga).
Almost all researched leagues registered the higher average regular-season attendance this season than a year ago. Besides the Liiga & the National League. Both leagues played their final regular-season rounds without attendance due to coronavirus, the Liiga did not even play.
The National League suddenly dropped from 7,074 people per game to 6,791 spectators per game because they played the last 12 games without spectators.
The Finnish Liiga played their 59th regular-season round without attendance while cancelling its last round of the regular season (seven games). Before the extraordinary measures, the average attendance was 4,239 fans and dropped to 4,172.
Finally, the last round of the SHL regular-season (seven games) was played without attendance too, so the league’s average attendance suddenly decreased from 6,050 people to 5,934. But, even that final figure is higher than last season’s average attendance.
Attendance Without Coronavirus Restrictions
But what would the attendance look like in a normal situation? Here is my calculation. Basically, I take into account the attendance figures at the moment of the coronavirus restrictions. So, without those games with applicable measures in affected leagues. Of course, the real attendance would differ a bit, but definitely not as much as with the coronavirus restrictions.
The coronavirus measures did not affect the regular-season in Germany, the Czech Republic, and the KHL. Of course, they affected the playoffs of all European leagues, but it is another story because it is not a topic of this article. I talk just the regular-season.
National League Remains the European Leader
At the end of a day, the NL is the best-attended European hockey league in 2019-20 with an average attendance of 6,791 spectators per game and the arenas‘ occupancy at 83,3%. However, without the coronavirus measures, the NL’s average attendance would be around 7,074 people as it was a day before the measures were applied. So, the NL would be above 7,000 fans again, for the first time since the 2015-16 season. And as the only league in Europe to do this in 2019-20 regular-season. But that is a what-if scenario.
Despite the restrictions, for the 19th consecutive year, SC Bern leads all European clubs with an average attendance of 15,588 in the regular season.
Lausanne HC played at a new venue this season and this significantly affected their average attendance and of course, it affected the NL’s attendance too. The Vaudoise Aréna was built on the site of the former arena, now demolished. Its capacity is 9,600 spectators. The Vaudoise Aréna hosted the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics.
Germans Overtake the KHL
So, the DEL is the second league in average attendance this regular-season as the Germans overtook the KHL in the rankings for European hockey attendance. Both leagues have been close to each other for the last decade, once the KHL is better, another season the DEL is higher in the rankings. If just a few clubs perform worse in attendance, the whole league slumps.
The DEL‘s average attendance is 6,523 spectators per game this regular season. The venues‘ occupancy is equal to 77%. For the last time, the DEL was above 6,500 in 2015-16 when Hamburg Freezers played its final season. The club belonged to the top European clubs in attendance, in their latest season the club was on 10th place in Europe with 9,022 spectators on average, but unfortunately, the club ceased operations after that season. As a consequence, DEL’s average attendance has started to decline.
Finally, the leading DEL clubs in attendance were once again Kőlner Haie, Eisbären Berlin & Adler Mannheim in 2019-20. But Kőlner Haie did not qualify for the playoffs, so the attendance of the post-season would be negatively affected. But, at the end of a day, the DEL abandoned their playoffs stage due to coronavirus outbreak.
The KHL Registered the Best-Attended Season
The KHL had its best-attended regular-season in 2019-20 since its establishment. The average attendance is 6,492 spectators per game this season, the arenas‘ occupancy is around 75%. It is not easy to calculate the league’s occupancy because some games were played outside of their traditional venues. Like the KHL World Games in Davos, Barys played in Almaty, SKA played a game at football’s Gazprom Arena, Jokerit played two games in Tallin, Spartak opted for Arena Mytischi while CSKA & Ak Bars played at their old venues.
Of course, KRS Beijing started its season with six games in Shenzhen, where the arena is much bigger (14,000) than its venue in Beijing (3,000). Moreover, the KRS Beijing played their final two games on the Russian soil, in Moscow and Novosibirsk respectively due to coronavirus. That is the reason why I do not declare their occupancy. Just for a record, their attendance in Beijing was very good, around 88%, but the arena is too small.
So, traditionally, SKA St.Petersburg and Dinamo Minsk lead the league in attendance. Overall, there is still room for improvement across the league, especially the clubs with the occupancy below 70%.
Last but not least, the KHL‘s total attendance of all 744 regular-season games is 4 830 293 people. It is unambiguously the best figure in European club hockey because the remaining leagues oscillate around 2 million to 2,3 million people in stands for all regular-season. But it needs to be noted that these leagues play much fewer games (NL – 300, DEL/SHL/TELH – 364, Liiga – planned 450, but 443 played due to coronavirus).
The SHL Attendance Shows Growth
So, the SHL‘s average attendance is 5,934 spectators per game with the arenas‘ occupancy of 79,9% in 2019-20 regular-season. They played the last round in empty arenas, which negatively affected the average attendance. At the end of the day, the average attendance is higher than last season, but it could be even higher – over 6,000 fans per game.
Reminding you that the last time the SHL’s average attendance of the regular-season was over 6,000 people in 2014-15. After that season, the SHL expanded with two teams, which has caused the dropping of the average attendance.
Good numbers for the current season might be explained in the following way. A very popular team Leksands IF promoted to the SHL for 2019-20, the club is popular even outside their city, while low-attended teams Mora IK & Timrå IK were relegated. Of course, another newcomer of the 2019-20 season – IK Oskarshamn – had very low attendance due to small venue, but Leksands IF’s popularity might make the difference.
The Czechs Registered Record Numbers
Now, moving on to the Czech Republic. The average attendance in TELH is 5,724 spectators per match with the arenas‘ occupancy of 75,7% in 2019-20 regular-season. I have the attendance data since the 2008-09 season and the current season is the best-attended regular-season for the TELH since then. Of course, Sparta’s O2 Arena with the capacity of 17,037 people played a big role in these great attendance figures even though Sparta’s arena occupancy was only around 60%.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about Dynamo Pardubice and Vítkovice Ridera. Both clubs have big venues with a capacity of close to 10,000 seats. But both teams struggled this season and they were close to relegation, their arenas occupancy was low. Luckily for them, and the league, they stay in the TELH for the upcoming season while Jágr’s Kladno has been relegated. My point is that if Pardubice or Vítkovice relegated, the attendance would crash significantly next season. Instead of Kladno and its small arena, Motor České Budějovice has been promoted to the TELH. The club is very popular, the arena is bigger than Kladno’s (6,421), so expecting their average attendance around 6,000 people. That should help the TELH to increase their average attendance again, especially if Pardubice/Vítkovice have better attendance figures. We will see.
TPS Turku and It’s Terrible Attendance
So, Liiga‘s attendance is 4,172 spectators per game with the arenas‘ occupancy of 68,3% this season. Before the restrictions due to coronavirus, the average attendance was 4,239 fans on average. Even without these measures, Liiga would be far behind remaining leagues in average attendance. If comparing to the last season, the Liiga’s attendance would be almost the same without coronavirus’ restrictions. If we take them into considerations, the average attendance is a bit lower.
It is worth mentioning that TPS Turku’s arena’s occupancy is just 37,1%. Their arena has a capacity above 11,000 seats. So, their occupancy is the lowest of all researched leagues. Significantly. Of course, you may oppose me with the coronavirus. But, no, the club played all home games with fans in attendance. Just the fans did not show up.
Nothing New, SC Bern Leads the Show
Finally, you can see the list of top 20 attended hockey clubs in those comparing leagues. SC Bern leads the ranking followed by SKA St.Petersburg and Kőlner Haie.
The KHL has the most teams (six) on that list. The German DEL is in second place with four teams, but three of them are among the top five. No surprise here, they have big venues and traditionally big popularity among fans. The Swiss, Swedish and Czech leagues have three teams each. There is just one team from the Finnish league – HIFK Helsinki. Of course, there is another team from the Finnish capital – Jokerit – but the club plays the KHL.
Note: I used the attendance data from the leagues’ websites.
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Feature Image Credit: (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)