The IIHF released its annual European attendance report on Wednesday and, for the 17th consecutive season, SC Bern was the top drawing club on the continent in 2017/18.
The two-time defending National League champions finished first in the regular season, which certainly didn’t hurt, although Bern also managed to finish with Europe’s top attendance in a year the team missed the playoffs in 2013/14. The margin by which the Swiss club leads the rest of the pack in is truly astounding. They averaged 16,371 spectators per home game this season, while in second place was Russian powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg, with an average of 11,847 – a difference of 28 percent.
After that, the pack is fairly tight. Followed closely by another KHL club – Dinamo Minsk of Belarus – the next teams are German clubs Eisbären Berlin and Kölner Haie, all within 500 per game. Other members of the E.H.C. Alliance in the top 10 include another German club, Adler Mannheim, as well as Frölunda Gothenburg of Sweden, ZSC Lions Zurich of Switzerland and Sparta Prague of the Czech Republic.
See the top 100 teams in Europe attendance-wise here, as reported by the IIHF, and then choose from the list of seasons on the right to compare with past seasons.
Among E.H.C. Alliance members, the biggest jumps forward were made by a pair of Czech clubs, Dukla Jihlava and Škoda Plzeň. Jihlava, who leaped 125 places from 194th to 69th, benefitted from advancing from the second-tier WSM Liga to the Tipsport Extraliga. The club finished last in the top Czech league and will try to defend its position in the upcoming barrage tournament. Plzeň, meanwhile, jumped 53 places from 81st on the list to 28th, thanks to a fantastic year where they finished first in the Extraliga regular season.
Other teams to improve significantly were Germany’s Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers Nürnberg, who finished third in the DEL regular season for the second straight year, Austria’s Vienna Capitals, who followed up their 2016/17 EBEL championship season with another first-place finish in the regular season, Slovakia’s HC Košice, despite falling to fifth in the Tipsport Liga, Sweden’s Färjestad Karlstad, who had their highest SHL regular season finish in five years, and Britain’s Sheffield Steelers, despite a subpar EIHL campaign by their own high standards.
Of the top 100 teams on the list, 60 are members of the E.H.C. Alliance (from nine different countries), with 26 others being from the Russian-based KHL or VHL. Furthermore, of the 13 leagues that the E.H.C. Alliance represents, member clubs are the attendance leaders in 11 of those. While that seems par for the course in leagues like Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Germany, where all or almost all teams in the top leagues are members, it also applies to places like Slovakia, Norway, Poland and Ukraine, which each have three or fewer members. This shows that the most popular and successful clubs are interested in growing their brands with E.H.C. Alliance membership.
Photo: SC Bern