7 Teams That Care the Most About Their Fans

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2012

7 Teams That Care the Most About Their Fans

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    One can make the argument that NHL teams care very little about their fans.

    If they did, they would give them games to attend and watch on television.

    The NHL lockout has denied all fans the ability to watch hockey at the highest level.

    No matter what fans experience when they do attend game, the fact that opportunity has been taken away probably speaks louder than the positive things teams do to make the fan experience positive.

    For the sake of argument, here are the teams that give their fans the best experiences when the NHL is not locking the players out and preventing fans from attending games.

Montreal Canadiens

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    There's nothing like the experience of attending a Montreal Canadiens home game.

    The team with the greatest winning tradition in the NHL has hit hard times and has not won a Stanley Cup since 1993. The Canadiens finished dead last in the Eastern Conference last year.

    However, the aura of hope is just as palpable as their descent in the standings. The great players from Montreal's past are highlighted every game, and Canadiens fans know that no other teams compares when it comes to team achievement or individual greatness.

    While it is not the Montreal Forum, the Bell Center is one of hockey's great shrines. Any fan who goes is treated to one of the best shows in hockey. 

Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Chicago Blackhawks fans were treated badly by management for years.

    Longtime owner Bill Wirtz was draconian with his policy that prevented Blackhawks home games from being shown on television.

    Wirtz was a "my way or the highway" kind of owner, and it extended to the way the fans were treated.

    After Wirtz passed away in 2007, his son Rocky Wirtz took over the day-to-day operations of the team.

    He has done nearly everything in a more fan-friendly way than his father.

    Among the many changes he made was allowing the home games to be televised. The Blackhawks are now far more popular than they ever were when Bill Wirtz ran the show.

San Jose Sharks

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    You might not expect a non-traditional market like San Jose to rank with the best fan experiences in the game, but it is.

    The Sharks games have been exciting for years, as the team has established itself as a prime contender. While they have never made it out of the Western Conference playoffs, the gameday experience is superb for fans of all experience levels.

    While they make it a point to educate fans who are new to the game, they don't talk down to longtime fans who don't need to be taught the game's basic rules.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning gameday experience has been rated in the top 10 of all North American pro sports by ESPN The Magazine two years in a row.

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik gave season ticket holders jerseys embedded with microchips that give them discounts for Lightning-related products and food while attending games.

St. Louis Blues

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    Over the years, the Blues have had many ownership groups, and the team has not been steady.

    However, the latest owners have pledged to give Blues fans an experience to remember every time they attend home games.

    They have put their money where their mouth is. They have reduced ticket prices dramatically. The average price of a ticket for a Blues home game is $41.57 per game, which is $15 less than the NHL average.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    The Carolina Hurricanes have done a lot of work to grow the game and create interest for fans on Tobacco Road who had only been interested in basketball prior to the Hurricanes' arrival in 1997 after the franchise's long run in Hartford.

    Ownership stays in touch with fans and offers annual events like the "Caniac Carnival," which gives fans a chance to see what's happening with the team in the offseason and gives them a ticket to a free preseason game.

    Fans are expecting a huge season from this team once the lockout ends.