Nine games. One sellout. Two cities with crowds of less than 10,000.
That was the summary of NHL attendance Thursday night. Gary Bettman would say that's just a quickee snapshot, a one night glimpse of a business that has 30 teams playing hosting 41 games from October through April.
Okay. But one sellout?
That came in Minnesota, a place the NHL abandoned more than a decade ago then re-discovered again through expansion.
But even San Jose, a pretty consistent draw since that team's inception, didn't fill the joint for the New York Rangers.
And aren't the Rangers one of those eastern teams that teams in the west supposedly desperately needs to come to town more often?
Listening to all those discussions over the possible need to rejig the NHL schedule this week have been interesting if only to hear the self-interest emanating from so many cities.
If you accumulate all the things teams say they need, the Detroit Red Wings would play 150 games a season and criss-cross the continent twice a week, while the New York Islanders and Phoenix Coyotes would only be asked to play about 20 games.
All at home.
Fact is, regional and divisional rivalries are still the best way to build the game, but you have to give them time to percolate. People often recall the wonderful days of the Original Six, and those teams were competing against each other a dozen times or more a year.
And suddenly eight is too many?
In the Southeast Division, for example, teams like Washington, Carolina and Atlanta are just starting to establish some meaningful relationships.
Why would you want to tear it apart now? So Edmonton can get Alexander Ovechkin more than once in a while?
There are serious concerns, meanwhile, in a few NHL cities, primarily St. Louis where audiences have been dreadfully small. The Blues have drawn crowds of less than 10,000 for four of their last five home starts despite the fact the team has been reasonably solid on home ice.
Then there's New Jersey, which drew a shockingly thin crowd of 8,269 for the Islanders on Thursday night. The Devils haven't sold out a game at the Meadowlands yet, and have yet to draw 16,000 customers to a building that holds 19,040.
In Atlanta, an exciting young team is still looking to capture the town's imagination. Seven home dates have produced an average attendance of 14,338 and two crowds of less than 13,000.
The Ducks, having dropped the Mighty, have a terrific team but still are working to gather consistently strong crowds in Anaheim. Only 13,350 showed up to see the Rangers this week.
That's four areas of the U.S., all showing attendance weaknesses.
After the surprising business successes of last season, the NHL is now dealing with the tough, uphill climb of pushing the sport to the next level and facing the obstacle of any number of cities in the United States that have yet to be electrified by the "new" NHL.
That said, all is well with the six Canadian teams, at least in terms of the business.
What an interesting result of the lockout.