Sheffield Steelers’ aspirations to join the top brands in Europe is slowly being boosted by their rising attendance figures.
They came 53rd in continental crowd figures ranking, an improvement on their 64th spot the previous year.
In real terms that meant Sheffield, whose figures included games at the smaller iceSheffield venue, enjoyed an average figure of 5,297 spectators.
If that appears to be a modest statistic in overall European and Russian terms, bear in mind that teams in the 5,000-plus range of bums-on-seats occupy positions from 34-58...in other words Steelers are in good company with the likes of Swiss team Geneve-Servette and German giants Nuremberg Ice Tigers.
Nottingham Panthers did slightly better than Sheffield with 5,692, an advantage of 395 (40th spot.)
Belfast Giants came 74th with 4,561.
No other Elite League clubs figure in the top 100.
Top team in the supporters fans’ league table is Swiss giant SC Bern for the 17th consecutive year with an average of 16,371 fans in the regular season.
Behind them in the top five are: St Petersburg, Dynamo Minsk, Eisbaren Berlin, and Kolner Haie.
Interestingly, the most-watched league is Switzerland’s National League, but their division’s average came in at 6,833, just over 1,500 more than watched Sheffield.
Britain’s Elite League, generally, has some way to catch the Swiss, in fairness, the 10 teams last year averaged 2,678.
However Steelers’ individual attendance beat the average in hockey hotspots in Finland, Austria, Slovakia, Norway amongst others, which shows you the significance in South Yorkshire, despite the fact hockey remains a ‘minority’ game in the eyes of many mainstream sport observers in the UK.
*The yard-stick for hockey always starts at north America’s NHL, whose regular season averaged 17,414 supporters.
But the AHL, from where Sheffield have taken many players over the years, managed 5,817, which again is in shouting distance of what Steelers amass.
*Football in the Premier League dwarfs hockey, globally: Manchester United average 74,976 followed by Tottenham Hotspur 67,953.
But Steelers can pat themselves on the back when they compare their figures with Rotherham United (8,514) and Doncaster Rovers (8,213) and Chesterfield (5,354.) [Soccer source: european-football-statistics.co.uk]