Anorak’s Corner (updated again 11.9)


Are you a lover of statistics for the sake of statistics? Of cleverly generated plots and graphs that show nothing in particular? Do yerrself a favour, visit the still under construction Tables page. Have a drink and a plate of sandwiches handy first though.


The Silly Season


The ice hockey season finished aeons ago — in fact, so long ago that even the NHL has shut up shop, Juhannus has come and gone and the summer holidays are pretty much over. Season or no season, there’s always something to write about, of course, be it Janne Niinimaa turning old slaughterhouses into rock clubs, or idly wondering when Tony Salmelainen will get round to completing his national service. Alternatively, we could play around with SM-liiga figures and see what turns up. Let’s start with the never-ceases-to-be-argued-about “which team’s got the best supporters?”

I suppose this requires a definition of best, and I’m sticking with number of bums on seats since crowd figures are all I’ve got to work with. The rest of the question can be taken as read. So, looking at runko sarja figures only since it keeps all 14 teams on a level basis, then taking home and away fixtures for all 56 games for each team results in the title honours going to Jokerit, the crowd figures being the average per game:

  1. Jokerit     7013
  2. HIFK        6221
  3. Kärpät      5711
  4. Ilves       5438
  5. Tappara     5361
  6. TPS         5290
  7. Blues       4804
  8. Ässät       4613
  9. Pelicans    4556
  10. Lukko       4490
  11. JYP         4485
  12. KalPa       4137
  13. SaiPa       4057
  14. HPK         3984

There’s not too much rocket science here, an expensively assembled team playing in the largest arena in the largest city draws the biggest crowds, followed by, well, other expensively assembled teams in other — or in one case, the same — large cities. The smaller teams from the smaller towns occupy the lower half of the table. Another factor that distorts the figures is that, in being 56 games with 14 teams, the fixtures are not properly round robin. Each club has 4 “extra” games that, up to last season but changing for the forthcoming season, pit teams in local derbies. Twelve of the clubs play in groups of three (Ilves – Tappara – HPK, Kärpät – KalPa – JYP, TPS – Ässät – Lukko, Blues – Pelicans – SaiPa) while the pääkaupunkilaiset play against each other an extra 4 times. To level this distortion, the average for each extra game has been calculated (e.g. Kärpät play JYP at home 3 times per season, so these crowds are summed and divided by three) and the appropriate number of these averages deducted. This reduces the season to crowds based on 52 games, each team playing each other twice both at home and away.

  1. Jokerit     6824
  2. HIFK        5971
  3. Kärpät      5780
  4. Ilves       5398
  5. Tappara     5321
  6. TPS         5296
  7. Blues       4853
  8. Pelicans    4578
  9. Ässät       4576
  10. JYP         4472
  11. Lukko       4434
  12. KalPa       4136
  13. SaiPa       4067
  14. HPK         3952

There’s a sizeable chunk taken off both of the Helsinki teams average gate, proving the worth of the extra local derbies to them. Ässät and Lukko also have their figures trimmed, the derby in this case probably being the only genuine one between teams from neighbouring towns, rather than from the same town. Pelicans and JYP both jump up a place in response to the south-west fall. However, for most clubs the change in average gate is not very much (in KalPa’s case by a solitary punter), some drop a little others rise a little, which suggests that this local derby format isn’t fulfilling its purpose. Undoubtedly, this is the reason for the change for next season.

Back to arguing the toss, let’s look at the average crowds for each club at home only to see if this gives any more useful information. Two columns of figures are presented, the first using raw data, i.e. for all 28 games, and the second with the two extra derby games removed, i.e. for 26 games with each other team visiting twice. The teams are in the same order for both sets of figures:

  1. Jokerit     8591   8401
  2. HIFK        6573   6473
  3. Kärpät      6055   6058
  4. TPS         5979   5948
  5. Ilves       5914   5864
  6. Tappara     5712   5669
  7. Blues       4838   4842
  8. Pelicans    4253   4256
  9. Ässät       4229   4195
  10. JYP         4055   4060
  11. Lukko       3733   3678
  12. SaiPa       3558   3571
  13. KalPa       3388   3372
  14. HPK         3282   3272

In terms of sorting out who’s got the best supporters there’s no new information here. The raw figures, however, show very clearly the huge revenue generating advantage the larger clubs, especially Jokerit, have over the smaller clubs. Kerho’s figures have presumably dropped somewhat following a calamitous season, but even so it cannot have been by a colossal amount, and so one marvels at the numerous good seasons on such thin resources. Truly a club punching way above its weight. A glance at Tampere reveals that, despite the numerous barren years and repeatedly playing second fiddle to Tappara, Ilves are still the better pull by an average of 200. This is same city, same stadium, same fixtures. Languishing in a not too brilliant tenth place is JYP, drawing an average of 4055. Not too impressive for one of the top teams? Well, the capacity in Hippos is a meagre 4500, so the occupancy rate is extremely high, second, in fact, only to that of Raksila. A worthy mention also in this respect to Pelicans who come in third, while the bottom two places are filled by Jokerit and TPS.

All of which sort of suggests that looking at figures that are bound to favour the large cities, is simply far too biased. Perhaps a better measure would be to look at the crowds that clubs draw when playing away. This is partly going to be a measure of the attraction of the visiting team to the home supporters, but it is also partly a measure of how many away supporters are prepared to follow a team. There are also geographical biases in this, but it is better than looking at figures that weigh so heavily on population. Again, two tables are presented, those for 28 games first followed by those for 26 games: 

  1. HIFK       5869      Kärpät     5503
  2. Jokerit    5436      HIFK       5470
  3. Kärpät     5367      Jokerit    5248
  4. Lukko      5246      Lukko      5190
  5. Tappara    5010      Tappara    4972
  6. Ässät      4996      Ässät      4956
  7. Ilves      4962      Ilves      4932
  8. JYP        4916      KalPa      4901
  9. KalPa      4886      Pelicans   4899
  10. Pelicans   4858      JYP        4885
  11. Blues      4771      Blues      4863
  12. HPK        4686      TPS        4644
  13. TPS        4601      HPK        4632
  14. SaiPa      4556      SaiPa      4563

These are starting to look more realistic. The gap from top to bottom (right hand figures, just under 1000) is less than half the gap between the first two places for the home fixtures only, and the table isn’t entirely dominated by the big city clubs. Romping into a highly impressive fourth place is Lukko: one would struggle to describe them as fashionable or expensively put together or successful, or Rauma as a metropolis, yet they are showing a clean pair of heels to all except the most successful of recent times and the two Helsinki clubs. Startlingly, their near neighbours and former power house from Turku inhabit the opposite end of the table, barely scraping above Kerho. The ’90s must seem an awfully long time ago to them. The battle of Tampere is now won by the more garishly clad of the two.

The problem with the above figures — as if I needed to look too hard for problems anyway —  is that this now discriminates against the bigger clubs. For example, Jokerit’s large attendances are included in every team’s figure except for Jokerit. The solution is to take the right hand figures immediately above, and add to them twice the average of the balanced (i.e. for 26 games) figures for the home fixtures. This gives each team an average calculated from playing in every team’s stadium, including its own, twice. It also has the advantage of being fair, impossible to argue against, and, most importantly, completely official. 

  1. Kärpät     5543
  2. HIFK       5542
  3. Jokerit    5473
  4. Lukko      5082
  5. Tappara    5022
  6. Ilves      4999
  7. Ässät      4902
  8. Blues      4862
  9. Pelicans   4853
  10. JYP        4826
  11. KalPa      4792
  12. TPS        4737
  13. HPK        4535
  14. SaiPa      4492

So there we are then: the team with the best supporters is Kärpät. It was a close run thing though, with just one person separating us from HIFK, who, by an amazing coincidence, just happens to be me.