The 2018-19 hockey season finished a few months ago. By now we know all of the champions in Europe. But today I will also look at the European attendance figures of the season.
Who Are the European Champions?
As in my previous attendance article, I selected the leading European hockey leagues for my research. They are as follows. First and foremost, it is the KHL as the leading championship in Eurasia. Next, the elite leagues from Switzerland (NL), Sweden (SHL), Germany (DEL), the Czech Republic (TELH) and finally, Finland (Liiga).
So, let me remind you of the champions of those leagues for the 2018-19 season. CSKA Moscow won the Gagarin Cup for the first time. While SC Bern became the Swiss champion. Frölunda from Gothenburg led the Swedish league. And Adler Mannheim became the German champions for the first time since 2014-15. Oceláři Třinec won Masarykův pohár (the Masaryk Cup) named in honour of the first Czech-Slovak president T.G.Masaryk. And finally, HPK Hämeenlinna was the Finnish champions.
The Swiss League Led the Regular-Season in 2018-19
I believe the numbers and graphs will tell you more than any words, so I will be very short here.
In the first graph, we can see the average attendances of the regular-season. No surprise, the Swiss league was the best-attended championship in Europe. Then we see the KHL and the DEL who are very close to each other. The KHL had 25 teams, the DEL had 14, while the NL only had 12 clubs. If we chose the twelve best-attended teams from their teams’ roster (KHL & DEL), their attendance numbers would look much better. Both leagues have clubs with great venues, but also teams having very old stadiums with low capacity. It shows in the numbers.
Afterwards, with a bigger gap, we see the Swedish elite league followed by the Czech extra league. The lowest was the Finnish championship. The Liiga’ attendance crashed when Jokerit left the league to join the KHL because its Hartwall Arena is the biggest hockey venue in Finland.
The Playoff Attendance Depends on a List of Venues
And now the playoffs. I want to remind you that the attendance in the post-season depends very much on available stadiums. Especially in both the KHL and DEL who have a significant disparity in the capacity of their venue. For example, if Dinamo Minsk with their 15,000 seat arena qualified for the Gagarin Cup stage instead of Vityaz with 5,500 seat venue, the average attendance would be higher. The same can be said for the DEL. The German league is lucky that Adler Mannheim & Kölner Haie made it to semifinals, Adler even won the title. But Eisbären Berlin was defeated in quarter-finals by Red Bull Munich. Adler, Haie and Eisbären have big venues, but Red Bull plays at smaller Olympia Eishalle.
Of course, the NL is in the first place again. The KHL and the DEL switched their positions. The remaining positions are the same as with regular season. I just point out to a very big gap between the three best-attended leagues and the SHL on the fourth place. Not to say about the Czech league and Liiga. Simply, those leagues have small venues, so they can not show bigger numbers.
Just a Look to the Future, New Venues on the Radar
Finally, the latest graph shows the average attendance for the season as a whole, regular-season plus playoffs. The ranking of the leagues is still the same, with just the KHL and the DEL swapping places from the previous graph.
We take a look at these three leagues (NL, KHL & DEL), who are far ahead of their opponents in terms of infrastructure. I looked at the leagues and their stadiums with at least 10,000 seats.
There are only two clubs out of twelve in the NL with big arenas, they are SC Bern as the best-attended European club, and ZSC Lions from Zűrich. out of the remaining 10, none have a venue with less than 5,000 seats. Some clubs plan to build new bigger venues. By bigger I mean an arena with at least 10,000 seats.
The DEL has four clubs with bigger venues (Adler Mannheim, Eisbären, Dűsseldorf EG & Kölner Haie), but also four venues with 5,000 seats.
Furthermore, the KHL has the biggest number of venues above 10,000 seats. I count nine teams with such stadiums, but again, I can see nine clubs with old stadiums and 5,000 seats. The good news is that four of them will get new 10,000 to 12,000 seat venues soon. They are Torpedo, Avtomobilist, Sibir and Avangard. It is still unknown as to where KRS Beijing will move in the future.
In conclusion, the SHL has just two teams with bigger venues, TELH has three such clubs and the Liiga has only one. I know about the construction of two bigger venues in Finland, one in Tampere for both Tappara and Ilves & Helsinki Garden for HIFK. Just to emphasise, it is not reasonable to build a bigger venue in a small Swedish, Finnish or a Czech city. I can only imagine it will be just Brno that gets a new venue.
Feature Image Credit: (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Bongarts/Getty Images)