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Campbell's Cuts: A slippery slope of poor attendance

Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL's head office staff likely aren't as concerned about the slight drop in goals this season as they are a significant drop in attendance.

That the Colorado Avalanche failed to sell out Monday night for the first time in almost 11 years provides a microcosm of the attendance situation throughout the league.

Through 78 games Monday night, the NHL was averaging 16,743 fans per game. Compared to the same point last season (through 82 total games), the league was averaging 17,285 coming off the season-long lockout.

Now 500 fans per game might not sound like much, but it presents some significant problems for the NHL, which is more a gate-driven league now than ever before. It also could have an impact on the players, who by the end of this month will receive a bonus check equaling 4.37 per cent of their salaries from last season to reflect the fact that revenues were higher than originally projected.

The players receive 54 per cent of revenues up to $2.2 billion, but if the decline in attendance continues, there's a very good chance they could be giving money back to the league this season.

In Denver, the Avalanche attracted 17,681 for its 5-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, which is 326 under the usual sellout crowd of 18,007 at the Pepsi Center. That ended a string of 487 sellouts for the Avalanche, which was established Nov. 1, 1995, their first year in Denver playing in the McNichol Arena after moving from Quebec.

Goals, meanwhile, are also down slightly compared to last season. After 78 games this season, teams are averaging 6.04 goals per game, compared to the same point last season when the per-game average was 6.3. The league averaged 6.1 goals per game through the entire season in 2005-06.

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