Did the Kovalchuk Trade Increase Attendance?

Editor's Note: Some good research to be had here over a topic that always grabs a Devils fan's interest: attendance. Hence, I put this FanPost on the Front Page.

February 5th was a big day for the Devils community. One of the best players in the last decade will be wearing NJ on his chest for the first time. The Ilya Kovalchuk Trade was monumental for this franchise. The entire community was buzzing with phrases like "offensive boost", "Stanley Cup Contender", and even "defensive liability." On ice production/issues would be the talk since he has gotten here, but what about a major off ice issue that has plagued this franchise for a number of years, and has been a large topic on this blog. Yup, Attendance. I have been tracking attendance at the rock ever since it opened, and when I came across this article, I thought I would look deeper into how the Kovalchuk Trade has influenced attendance.

There have been 9 home games featuring Kovy in the lineup with a record of 7-1-1. They were home games 28 to 36 of the season. I will compare this season, and that stretch of home games to the past 2 seasons at the Rock. I will also note anything that would have an affect on attendance (promotions or a blizzard).

Those 9 games featured five sellouts (Fri 2/12 Nashville; Wed 3/10 Rangers; Fri 3/12 Pittsburgh; Wed 3/17 Pittsburgh; Sat 3/20 St. Louis), two games at 15k+ (Fri 2/5 Toronto 15204; Mon 3/15 Boston 15801), 1 game at 14k+ (Tue 3/23 Columbus 14202), and one game at 5580 (Wed 2/10 Philly). The Nashville game was baseball cap night, the second Pittsburgh game was the retro jersey night, and the Philly game was that blizzard. Also I'm not sure which games were apart of the free tickets for fans attending the blizzard game, but some had to be apart of this stretch. Note: this stretch was interrupted by the Olympic Break (3 home games before, 6 after).

The average was 15435 for the 9 games (without the blizzard game, average was 16666). Before the trade, the running average for the season was 15220. The running average to date is 15273 (without the blizzard game, it would be 15550). 

Comparing this to the past 2 seasons, at the 28th home game mark, the running averages were 15309 and 15501 in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons respectively. At the 36th home game mark, the running averages were 15388 and 15624 in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons respectively. Between home games 28 and 36 during the 2007-2008 season, the average was 15623, with 2 sellouts, and during the 2008-2009 season, the average was 15991, with 3 sellouts (Note: one sellout was Marty's 552 victory).

At the 36 home game mark, there were 7 sellouts in the inaugural season (out of 8), and 8 sellouts last season (out of 11). This season, there have already been 11 sellouts, 5 with Kovy. The Devils sold out 3 consecutive home games (2/12, 3/10, 3/12), and 5 of 6 during the stretch, which has never happened in the regular season at the Rock.

During these 9 home games, the Devils played 6 conference teams (4 division). They entered with a 35-18-2 record, played an additional 8 away games, and currently are 43-25-4. Again, they are 7-1-1. Last season, the Devils were 34-17-4 entering their 28th home game, playing 4 conference games (2 division), and an additional 6 away games. After home game 36, they were 46-20-3 record, going 9-0-0 at home. During the inaugural season, the Devils entered home game 28 with a 30-21-4 record, playing 8 conference games (2 division), and 9 additional away games. After home game 36, they were 42-24-7, going 6-1-2 at home. Also, each season featured one Devils-Rangers game (thus automatic sellout) during the nine game stretch. There were 4 weekend games this season, and 5 in each of the past 2 seasons during the stretch.

So from all these numbers, comparing  the last 2 seasons, records, special events, etc..can you say Ilya has had a large impact on the attendance? I would say yes, when putting the blizzard game into account, which has really hurt averages this season. In the running average between home games 28 and 36, this year had a +53 (+330 without the Blizzard game), last year had a +123, and the year before had a +79. The average during the stretch was 15435 (16666 without the blizzard game) this season, 15623 last season, and 15991 the season before. There were the same amount of sellouts this season as the last 2 years combined. This season had 1 less weekend game also.

Now taking the blizzard game into account, you have to put others too. What would help give the trade an increase in attendance, and what wouldn't? The retro jersey night, the 4 division games, and the Olympic Break, the economy, and the team struggling into the trade all have impacts compared to previous seasons.

What do you think? I haven't been to any games since the first season at the Rock. Is the atmosphere better? Are luxury boxes being used more? Do the number say something different in your eyes? Discuss...

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