I finally came across some league-wide attendance numbers for the two seasons the Scouts played: The average attendance at an NHL game was 13,224 in 1974-’75 and 12,644 in’75-’76. This helps put the Scouts attendance of 8,529 in ’74-’75 in better perspective (I don’t have a number for ’75-’76 yet). That means the Scouts drew only 64% of the league average in their first year. That is the equivalent of drawing 11,261 fans per game in 2008-’09, or 2,512 fewer than the Islanders’ league-worst 13,773 average last season. Which sounds pretty bad. Because it is. But of course, countless conditions have changed in the last 30 years.
Perhaps most importantly, the KC metro population has grown from 1.4 million in 1976 to 2 million today, a 143% increase. That projects as an additional 3,667 butts in seats per game. Add that to the above 11,261 number, and you get an average of 14,928 per game. That would have ranked 28th in the NHL last season, ahead of Phoenix, Atlanta and the Islanders.
League-wide attendance increases over the last 30+ years are due in no small part to population increases in NHL towns, so it’s probably double-dipping to increase Scouts attendance numbers by both league attendance trends and KC population trends. Another potential factor is that the Scouts were competing for sports fans’ dollars with the NBA Kansas City Kings at the time, something a team of today wouldn’t have to contend with. For those and many other reasons, the above numbers are mostly useless to project what the reality would be if Kansas City were to gain an NHL franchise—I just thought they were interesting to play with.
In the end, how an NHL team would draw in Kansas City today doesn’t have a lot to do with how the Scouts, Blades or Outlaws drew, or how the Mavericks will draw. Attracting a respectable number of fans would rely primarily on how successful the team was on the ice (which is why an expansion franchise might be on shaky footing until/unless they start winning). Secondarily, it would take strong, patient ownership that was dedicated to a long-term goal of making the NHL stick in Kansas City. Thirdly, the team would have to be innovatively and aggressively marketed. The Scouts had none of those things going for them.
This chart shows just how brutal Scouts attendance was. I'm missing numbers from four games, but in the 36 games I do have, the Scouts only had an NHL average crowd twice in their entire first season. Almost makes you sympathetic towards owner Ed Thompson for bailing after two years.