Just call it life, liberty and the pursuit of hockey-ness.
In honor of Independence Day, this author has decided to make a sweep-check across the birthday nation and offer American hockey fans a holiday puck fix by examining some of the country’s under the radar hockey markets.
The United States has 50 states and only 23 NHL franchises to go around. But most every gap on the map is filled by the sport’s minor league system that is rivaled only by baseball, a decent smattering of college programs, an elaborate junior league system and dense grassroots interest.
Support for minor pro, collegiate and junior teams are generally the most indicative aspects of a community’s hockey loyalty. And the majority of the 10 towns chosen for this list have more than one such team in the area.
The same goes for many of those who fell short, including two towns in Alaska (Anchorage and Fairbanks) and Erie, Pa., the home of Mercyhurst College and the OHL’s Erie Otters. The entire state of Minnesota also deserves at least a fleeting honorable mention for its unequaled craze for youth and high school hockey.
But upon narrowing down the nominees based on the amount and variety of support for local teams, these are the top 10 non-NHL U.S. cities who happily settle for the next best thing, presented in alphabetical order.