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Is this seat taken? A look at attendance during the 2014-15 season

205,740 seats had the honor of being kept warm by the posterior of an Asia League hockey fan last season. Before you do the math, that’s an average of 952 people a game. I wonder what the highest and lowest attendance was? Got you covered. 3,168 at Qiqihar, China to watch the Dragon defeat Sangmu 5-4. On the other end, 111 to see Sangmu exact revenge on the Dragon in a 5-2 win at Goyang, Korea.

A closer look at whole picture is in order to understand the numbers, and the social context in which they occur is also deserved. Sound too much like a scientific study? Yep. Necessary? As Omar would say, “Indeed.” Rest assured there won’t be a pop quiz at the end of the article. Maybe.

The nine teams that make up the Asia League played in 22 different rinks last year. Some teams like Halla, Sakhalin and the Icebucks each called one arena home; while the others were social butterflies playing in multiple rinks converting folks by spreading the good word of hockey.

First off, none of the teams own their rinks. They are community rinks and, as such, the teams have to share ice time with figure skating clubs, short track speed skating clubs and other hockey clubs which results in odd times and playing out of other rinks. Sort of like a professional North American team like the Toronto Marlies sharing the Air Canada Centre with a minor hockey team. Yeah, I wrote it!. ( An edit will be made if the Leafs make the playoffs in 2015-16). Edmonton Oilers you were close to being put in that spot. Come on you owe me. Nine years is too long.

A quick thought: An Asia League All-Star team goes to North America for a barnstorming tourney. Or a minor league team like the Leafs come to Asia and play. Double burn!

Also budgetary and time constraints on some teams necessitate playing out of alternate rinks. Case in point, the China Dragon playing their “home” opener in Tomakomai, Japan and two other home games in Japan. Daemyung Sangmu was also forced to play six home games in February in Goyang instead of the Mokdong rink in Seoul due to an international figure skating event.

* Sangmu has resolved that issue. They’ll be playing ALL 24 home games out of beautiful new rink in Incheon, Korea about 20 km from their old home of Mokdong Arena in Seoul.

The Japanese teams, asides from the Icebucks, are corporate owned and travel to various rinks in Japan to entertain the people and gain new fans for the teams and league. The Nippon Paper Cranes played in six rinks including their home rink of Kushiro. The Tohoku Free Blades and Oji Eagles skated around five ice ovals to show the people what hockey is.

Now class, onto the social structure in which the Asia League operates. In Korea, Japan and China people often, officially, work until 6 or 6:30 Monday to Friday, but usually much later, which makes it hard to see family, let alone catch a weekday hockey game (The charts below if you can’t wait). So what you say?

Personal example, I went to a Halla home game during a week day game. I took a taxi figuring it’s only 5 km away from the rink. Bad move. All those people getting off work resulted in a wicked traffic jam and I spent 30 minutes in a taxi and missed the first period of the game. Take the subway next time you say. Same result because the station is a 15 minute walk from the rink. Now imagine 25 million people in Seoul all on the move at the same time.

Are hockey fans going to make it to the game? Unlikely. In Japan and China the same situation happens. This will help explain the numbers below.

Home Game Attendance 2014-15
Total Avg. High Low Opener Closer Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Dragon 38457 1602 3168 362 548 2870 858 1351 671 2680 1818 2026
Icebucks 30318 1263 1763 766 1503 1751  1413 953 846 1379 1500
Eagles 29250 1218 2014 572 988 1476  1300 1300 873 992 857 1429 1370
Cranes 27480 1145 1944 552 1032 1684  875 865 778 552 1249 1363
Blades 22757 948 1302 582 1085 1294 942 822 946 1015
Sakhalin 18943 789 1020 400 1010 652  811 673 784 711 774
Halla 15539 647 934 307 934 658 453 371 444 789 672
High1 15353 639 1552 221 511 527 618 421 316 332 854 684
Sangmu 7553 314 748 111 485 384 1 gm unreported 378 123 267 276 405 296
League 205741 952 1605 430 899 1255  858  837 610 690 619 1049 1084

FOR a more detailed report email: hockeyinasia@gmail.com

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