Blackhawks safely can claim another NHL attendance title, but there’s little to celebrate
The Hawks averaged 21,441 fans for their 34 home games this season, tops in the league, but it might be awhile before the next crowd arrives at the United Center.
The man largely responsible for the streak was fired Monday, the outlook for when games will resume is murky and the outlook for when fans will be able to attend those games is even murkier.
But the Blackhawks safely can mark down a 12th consecutive NHL attendance title.
When the 2019-20 season was paused March 11, the Hawks were averaging 21,441 fans for 34 home games at the United Center, topping the Canadiens’ average of 21,085 for the highest mark in hockey.
Taking outdoor games out of the equation, the Hawks have led the league in attendance every season since 2008-09. That’s the same season their ongoing 531-game sellout streak began.
And while there is increasing optimism leaguewide that the 2019-20 regular season eventually will restart, there’s little chance that resumption will take place in Chicago and even lower odds that fans will be able to attend the rescheduled games.
After all, the logistics of hosting a crowd of 20,000-plus in the coronavirus era — not to mention the various governmental bans across the United States and Canada, including in Illinois, on large public gatherings — would be impossible.
Even looking ahead to 2020-21, it’s very possible that part or all of the season could be played without fans.
The NHL reportedly is looking at another strange calendar for the coming season. If the 2020 Stanley Cup isn’t awarded until September, as the latest resumption plan suggests, the 2020-21 season might not start until December and might not end until July. And the league has no control over COVID-19 test and vaccine availability, both of which will have a huge effect on when spectators safely can return to large sporting arenas.
So the Hawks can chalk up the 2019-20 attendance title as theirs without much hesitation. But the fact that it might be a while before they get a chance to defend that title somewhat overrides the positivity.
Plus, longtime president John McDonough — widely credited as the mastermind behind the Hawks’ marketing and ticket-sales dynasty that coincided with the team’s on-ice dynasty — is gone after nearly 13 years in the position.
Although much mystery about the reasons for McDonough’s firing remains, the plummeting resale value of Hawks tickets and the starting-to-decline number of season-ticket holders — two trends that threaten to break the sellout streak — might have been factors.
In other words, 2019-20 might prove to be the last season of league-leading attendance on Madison Street.
2019-20 Attendance Review
• The Hawks’ average crowd of 21,441 represented a small increase from the average of 21,339 last season, ending a streak of four annual declines.
• The largest crowd (21,878) came when the Hawks hosted the Predators on Feb. 21.
• The smallest crowd (21,172) came when the Hawks hosted the Golden Knights on Oct. 22.
• A crowd of 21,275 attended the Hawks’ game against the Sharks on March 11, the day before the season was halted.
• The average weekday crowd was 21,444, four more than the average weekend crowd of 21,440.
• Games against Central Division rivals were slightly more popular, drawing an average of 21,519 fans, compared with 21,405 for non-division games.
• The Hawks had 19 home games start at 7:30 p.m. and averaged 21,435 fans at those games. They had 15 games start at other times (although only one before 6 p.m.) and averaged 21,448 fans at those.