Behind the numbers: NHL attendance surpassing NBA

Behind the numbers: NHL attendance surpassing NBA
January 6, 2014, 4:00 pm
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Nina Falcone

The Blackhawks' growth in popularity has been a hot topic the last few seasons, especially since their 2013 Stanley Cup victory. 

The team's recent on-ice successes and ability to connect with fans off the ice has transformed Chicago into a hockey town. Between earning two Stanley Cups in four seasons and hosting events such as the Blackhawks Convention during the offseason, the Blackhawks have a strong, loyal group of fans cheering them on as they cruise through the season.

Sunday's game against the Sharks marked the Blackhawks' 250th consecutive sellout throughout the regular season and postseason. And despite the cold, harsh weather conditions in Chicago, fans still packed the United Center.

But the NHL isn't just seeing increased numbers in the Windy City; the numbers as a whole are up throughout North American markets.

[RELATED: Blackhawks' female fanbase is on the rise

According to the latest attendance records, the NHL is averaging more sellout crowds than the NBA. 

Throughout the 2013-14 season, 15 NHL markets have averaged at least 100 percent capacity in their home stands: The Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets.

The Red Wings lead the charts at a 118.5 percent capacity, an average of 23,780 fans per game, while the Blackhawks take second at a 109.2 percent capacity, averaging 21,528 fans per game. 

(Note: Without the Winter Classic, the Red Wings are averaging 20,066 fans per game. If you don't count the outdoor game, the Blackhawks are leading the attendance charts. Expect the Blackhawks to get a healthy bump when they play their game at Soldier Field on March 1.)

The NBA, on the other hand, has only eight markets averaging at least 100 percent capacity this season: The Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets. 

The Bulls come in at No. 1 at 104.6 percent capacity, averaging 21,876 fans per game inside the United Center.

[MORE: Preseason turnout illustrates Blackhawks' growth in Chicago]

Chicago is a prime example of the growth in popularity within the NHL. The team's winning traditions the last few seasons and off-ice interactions have given this city a new appreciation for their hometown team.

The numbers around the entire league have grown tremendously just since the lockout, averaging six additional sellout markets compared to the 2010-11 season. 

Between the game's increased speed and talent, addition of outdoor games and upcoming Olympic exposure, it appears the league's popularity will continue on the rise.