NHL Power Rankings: Who Has the Best Home-Ice Advantage?

Tom SchreierCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2010

NHL Power Rankings: Who Has the Best Home-Ice Advantage?

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    Although all three division winners in the Eastern Conference failed to take advantage of their home ice in the playoffs, playing in front of a rabid fan base gives teams an edge.

    Late last season, the Atlanta Thrashers were facing the Boston Bruins on the brink of their second postseason in franchise history.

    Even after the Ilya Kovalchuk fallout that resulted in their franchise player departing to New Jersey, the Thrash looked ready to take advantage of a weak Eastern Conference.

    However, despite offering heavily-discounted tickets, the Atlanta natives—who have been tormented with the loss of All-Stars Marian Hossa, Marc Savard, Dany Heatley, and, most recently, Kovalchuk —failed to show.

    Described by one reporter as quieter than the local library, the team had no momentum in the game and were shut out 4-0, essentially ending their playoff hopes.

    On the other hand, the Montreal Canadiens, backed by their loyal fans, were able to take advantage of their home ice advantage (Bell Centre capacity: 21,273) and go on a Cinderella run as an 8-seed in the playoffs.

    In the West, Chicago capitalized its rejuvenated fan base and got the United Center (22,428 with standing room) behind on its way to the franchise's first Stanley Cup victory in 49 years.

    In the following slides, all 30 NHL fan bases are ranked by their ability to create home-ice advantage.

30. BankAtlantic Center: Florida Panthers

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005—25-11-5

    2006—23-12-6

    2007—18-15-8

    2008—22-12-7

    2009—16-16-9

     

    Stadium capacity: 19,250

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005—16,014 (83.2%)

    2006—15,370 (79.8%)

    2007—15,436 (80.2%)

    2008—15,621 (81.2%)

    2009—15,146 (78.7%)

     

    Analysis:

    Nine straight seasons without a postseason appearance has resulted in impartiality among Panthers fans.

    Under new GM Dave Tallon, a man who helped turned the once-imperiled Chicago Blackhawks into a contender, the Cats will have to put a better product on the ice in order to generate interest in the Miami area.

    Their task has become more difficult with the Miami Heat's recent acquisition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh and the construction of a new ballpark for the Florida Marlins.

    In order to become relevant in South Beach, the Cats will have to be a consistent playoff contender.

    It should be noted, however, that the BankAtlantic Center's capacity of 19,250 is considerably larger than many other NHL venues.

    If the Panthers played in a smaller arena, say Edmonton's Rexall Place (capacity: 16,839), they would average around 90 percent attendance every year.

29. Jobing.com Arena: Phoenix Coyotes

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005—19-18-4

    2006—18-20-3

    2007—17-20-4

    2008—23-15-3

    2009—29-10-2

     

    Stadium capacity: 17,125

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005—15,582 (91.0%)

    2006—14,988 (85.6%)

    2007—14,820 (84.7%)

    2008—14,875 (85.0%)

    2009—11,989 (68.5%)

     

    Analysis:

    Contrary to popular belief, the Coyotes were supported until recently.

    With paid attendance above 90 percent following the lockout, the Coyotes could have capitalized on a somewhat reasonable fan base by putting a quality product on the ice.

    Instead, the team sputtered under the tutelage of Wayne Gretzky and were unable to reach the postseason in four consecutive years following the lockout.

    Time will tell whether or not the 'Yotes are able to capitalize on their Cinderella 100-plus point season last year.

28. Philips Arena: Atlanta Thrashers

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005—24-13-4

    2006—23-12-6

    2007—19-19-3

    2008—18-21-2

    2009—19-16-6

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,545

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005—15,550 (83.9%)

    2006—16,240 (87.6%)

    2007—15,831 (85.4%)

    2008—14,626 (78.9%)

    2009—13,607 (73.4%)

     

    Analysis:

    In 1999, when NHL hockey returned to Atlanta after a 19-year absence, the Atlanta Thrashers, who replaced the departed Atlanta Flames (1972-80), generated a large amount of excitement in Georgia.

    However, in over a century, the team has only qualified for the postseason once and has yet to win a playoff game.

    After seeing NHL superstars Dany Heatley, Marc Savard, Marian Hossa, and Ilya Kovalchuk enter and leave the organization, fans in Atlanta have either lost interest or do not show up to games in protest.

    Hockey has a chance to be successful in Atlanta if the team can become an annual postseason contender, but they will have to generate interest in the city and gain the trust of their loyal fans again in order to do so.

27. Nationwide Arena: Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005—23-18-0

    2006—18-19-4

    2007—23-16-2

    2008—25-13-3

    2009—20-12-9

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,500

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005—16,796 (90.8%)

    2006—16,401 (90.4%)

    2007—14,823 (81.7%)

    2008—15,543 (85.7%)

    2009—15,416 (85.0%)

     

    Analysis:

    Along with the Atlanta Thrashers, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been one of the worst expansion teams in the NHL.

    Like the Thrashers, the Blue Jackets have only made one playoff appearance since their inception in 2000 and have yet to win a game in the postseason.

    Located in the Central Division with the historically significant St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, and Detroit Red Wings (and the Nashville Predators, who have been in the playoffs five of the last six years) the Jackets have finished fourth or worse in their division in all but one season since the lockout.

    Surprisingly, the team has yet to drop below 80 percent paid attendance since the lockout.

26. Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum: New York Islanders

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005—20-18-3

    2006—22-13-6

    2007—18-18-5

    2008—17-18-6

    2009—23-14-4

     

    Stadium capacity: 16,250

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005—12,609 (77.6%)

    2006—12,886 (79.1%)

    2007—13,640 (83.7%)

    2008—13,773 (84.5%)

    2009—12,735 (78.1%)

     

    Analysis:

    The combination of an aging building and poor play on the ice, the Islanders, winners of four straight championships in the '80s, are struggling to generate interest on Long Island.

    Although there are rumors that the team may be moving, the development of young superstars John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and Matt Moulson and the recently proposed Lighthouse Project should eventually make the Islanders relevant again.

25. Honda Center: Anaheim Ducks

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005—26-10-5

    2006—26-6-9

    2007—28-9-4

    2008—20-18-3

    2009—25-11-5

     

    Stadium capacity: 17,174

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005—15,131 (88.1%)

    2006—16,389 (95.4%)

    2007—17,193 (102.6%)

    2008—16,990 (98.9%)

    2009—15,168 (88.3%)

     

    Analysis:

    Fans in Anaheim are great...when they show up.

    The Pond—a reference to the Honda Center's original name, the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim—is filled with loud, bloodthirsty fans when the hard-hitting, defensive-minded Ducks are in contention, but empty when the team is not above .500.

    Hockey's development in California is growing steadily and the team has already developed a rivalry with the San Jose Sharks.

    With the rejuvenation of the neighboring Los Angeles Kings, there may be a three-way California hockey rivalry that will encourage people to visit the Pond on a regular basis.

24. Bridgestone Arena: Nashville Predators

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 32-8-1

    2006 - 28-8-5

    2007 - 23-14-4

    2008 - 24-13-4

    2009 - 24-14-3

     

    Stadium capacity: 17,113

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 14,428 (84.3%)

    2006 – 15,259 (89.2%)

    2007 – 14,910 (87.1%)

    2008 – 15,010 (87.7%)

    2009 – 14,979 (87.5%)

     

    Analysis:

    Few in number, but passionate and clamorous, Nashville Predators devotees keep hockey in Tennessee by attending games year in and year out, despite their team's inability to advance past the first round in the playoffs.

    The Preds have rewarded their fans by advancing to the postseason five of the last six seasons. Last year they were poised to take advantage of the national viewership generated by Chicago's rejuvenation by knocking out the rival Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs.

    Instead of taking advantage of the shellshocked Hawks, the Preds were unable to produce on their powerplay and were sent home early.

    Should this organization win a playoff series they would draw attention to themselves and put their faithful devotees on display for the NHL community to see.

23. Prudential Center: New Jersey Devils

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 27-11-3

    2006 - 25-10-6

    2007 - 25-14-2

    2008 - 28-12-1

    2009 - 27-10-4

     

    Stadium capacity: 17,625

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 14,230 (80.7%)

    2006 – 14,176 (74.5%)

    2007 – 15,564 (88.3%)

    2008 – 15,790 (89.6%)

    2009 – 15,535 (88.1%)

     

    Analysis:

    Since relocating from Denver, the New Jersey Devils have been perennial postseason contenders; however, because of the team's proximity to New York and Philadelphia, the Devils are unable to draw a big crowd to their games.

    Outside of the 2007 season, when the team had 99 points, the Devils have eclipsed the 100-point mark every year since the lockout.

    Led by Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Martin Brodeur, Jamie Langenbrunner, Anton Volchenkov, and Patrik Elias the Devils are positioned to contend for the Stanley Cup for the next few years.

    However, with many Rangers and Flyers fans in New Jersey, support for the Devils remains an uncertainty.

22. RBC Center: Carolina Hurricanes

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    Carolina Hurricanes

    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 31-8-2

    2006 - 21-16-4

    2007 - 24-13-4

    2008 - 26-14-1

    2009 - 21-17-3

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,176

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 15,596 (85.5%)

    2006 – 17,386 (92.8%)

    2007 – 16,633 (88.8%)

    2008 – 16,572 (88.5%)

    2009 – 15,240 (81.4%)

     

    Analysis:

    Hockey in Carolina originally looked like a bust; however, with the Hurricanes' recent success, the RBC Center has become an exciting venue.

    Although the inconsistent 'Canes often do not fill their building during the regular season, their loyal fans bring a college football mentality to hockey.

    When the Hurricanes are in playoffs, tailgaters show up early to games to tailgate in the parking lot and stand for the duration of the game.

    The team has responded by becoming one of the most exciting postseason teams in the NHL, regardless of where the team is initially seeded.

21. Verizon Center: Washington Capitals

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 16-18-7

    2006 - 17-17-7

    2007 - 23-15-3

    2008 - 29-9-3

    2009 - 30-5-6

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,277

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 13,905 (76.1%)

    2006 – 13,929 (74.6%)

    2007 – 15,472 (82.9%)

    2008 – 18,097 (96.9%)

    2009 – 18,277 (100.0%)

     

    Analysis:

    The drafting and development of players like Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green has turned the once-hapless Caps into contenders.

    Known to the locals as the Phone Booth, the Verizon Center has become a difficult arena to play in.

    The sea of red surrounding the ice gives the Caps, who are in need of a rebound after last year's early exit, the advantage they need to bring a championship to Washington.

20. TD Garden: Boston Bruins

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 16-15-10

    2006 - 18-19-4

    2007 - 21-16-4

    2008 - 29-6-6

    2009 - 18-17-6

     

    Stadium capacity: 17,565

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 - 16,211 (92.3%)

    2006 - 14,764 (84.1%)

    2007 - 15,384 (87.6%)

    2008 - 17,039 (97.0%)

    2009 - 17,388 (99.0%)

     

    Analysis:

    The Celtics have made the Boston Garden a notable venue over the years, but with their recent success, the Bruins are doing what they can to stay on the radar in Massachusetts.

    Boston has great hockey tradition rooted in the successful collegiate programs at Boston University and Boston College.

    However, fans in the city have become upset with the Bruins' management over the years because of their inability to produce a perennial contender like the Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics.

    Since the lockout the Bruins have become increasingly more competitive, and subsequently their attendance and home-ice advantage has greatly improved.

19. American Airlines Center: Dallas Stars

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 28-11-2

    2006 - 28-11-2

    2007 - 23-16-2

    2008 - 20-16-5

    2009 - 23-11-7

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,532 (18,584 standing room only)

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 17,828 (96.2%)

    2006 – 17,914 (96.7%)

    2007 – 18,038 (97.3%)

    2008 – 17,680 (95.4%)

    2009 – 17,313 (93.6%)

     

    Analysis:

    As a result of being a perennial contender since relocating from Minnesota in 1993, the Dallas Stars pack the AAC on a regular basis.

    In 2008, the Stars looked like Stanley Cup contenders after going into four overtimes to beat the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Semifinals, but had their season curtailed by the Red Wings, who would be crowned champions that year.

    With the rejuvenation of the LA Kings and Phoenix Coyotes and continual success of the Sharks, the Dallas Stars, who are suffering from Tom Hicks' financial woes (which resulted in a recent sale), have had trouble entering the postseason.

    However, the team has plenty of great young players, and their loyal fan base should expect to see a postseason contender in the next few years.

18. St. Pete Times Forum: Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 25-14-2

    2006 - 22-18-1

    2007 - 20-18-3

    2008 - 12-18-11

    2009 - 21-14-6

     

    Stadium capacity: 19,758

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 20,509 (103.8%)

    2006 – 19,876 (100.6%)

    2007 – 18,692 (94.6%)

    2008 – 16,497 (85.6%)

    2009 – 15,497 (78.4%)

     

    Analysis:

    Before the Lightning's disastrous 2008 season, the St. Pete Times Forum was one of the toughest places to play in the NHL.

    A large arena packed to the brim with fans excited about hockey's arrival in Florida, attendance at the Ice Palace can top 20,000 when the team is playing well.

    With the addition of Simon Gagne and the emergence of Steven Stamkos, the Lightning should be competitive once again and use their commodious arena to their advantage.

17. Staples Center: Los Angeles Kings

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 26-14-1

    2006 - 16-16-9

    2007 - 17-21-3

    2008 - 18-15-8

    2009 - 22-13-6

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,118

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 17,839 (98.5%)

    2006 – 16,859 (91.1%)

    2007 – 16,606 (92.0%)

    2008 – 16,488 (89.1%)

    2009 – 17,313 (93.6%)

     

    Analysis:

    Unheralded and often considered fair-weather, Los Angeles Kings enthusiasts are perhaps the only LA-based fan base that supports their team regardless of their record.

    Despite having to compete with annual postseason teams (Lakers, Dodgers, Angels), nightlife, and other entertainment in Hollywood, the often mismanaged and usually non-competitive Kings usually get a good crowd to show up to their games.

    Through talent evaluation and well contemplated transactions, GM Dean Lombardi has compiled an impressive roster of players like Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, and Jack Johnson.

    The Kings should be competitive for years to come and draw fans throughout LA.

16. Scottrade Center: St. Louis Blues

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 12-23-6

    2006 - 18-19-4

    2007 - 20-15-6

    2008 - 23-13-5

    2009 - 18-18-5

     

    Stadium capacity: 19,250 (19,350 standing room only)

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 14,213 (73.8%)

    2006 – 12,520 (59.6%)

    2007 – 17,610 (83.9%)

    2008 – 18,554 (88.4%)

    2009 – 18,883 (98.6%)

     

    Analysis:

    Before the lockout the St. Louis Blues were a perennial playoff team—the team advanced to the postseason every year from 1980 to 2004—but were never able to win the Cup.

    Upset about the lockout, fans in St. Louis boycotted the Blues, who were significantly less competitive following the strike.

    Recently, the Blues have undergone a youth movement and, along with the Colorado Avalanche, have become an outstanding young team that has a bright future.

    As a result, fans are showing up to Blues games again and making the Scottrade Center a tough place to play.

15. Pepsi Center: Colorado Avalanche

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 25-10-6

    2006 - 22-16-3

    2007 - 27-12-2

    2008 - 18-21-2

    2009 - 24-14-3

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,007

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 18,007 (100.0%)

    2006 – 17,612 (97.8%)

    2007 – 16,842 (93.5%)

    2008 – 15,429 (85.7%)

    2009 – 13,947 (77.5%)

     

    Analysis:

    In 1996 the Colorado Avalanche, a year after relocating from Quebec, were crowned Stanley Cup Champions.

    As a result the Avs, formerly the Quebec Nordiques, were one of the most popular teams in the NHL following the lockout. In 2006, the team set an NHL record for the longest consecutive sellouts with 487.

    However, the team sputtered in 2008 and were one of the worst teams in the league. With little anticipation heading into last season, the city of Denver turned its focus elsewhere.

    Last year the Avalanche shocked the NHL, and their own fans, by advancing to the playoffs behind recently-drafted Matt Duchene (third overall, 2009), Ryan O'Reilly (33rd overall, 2009) and rookie T.J. Gallardi (55th overall, 2007).

    Although their attendance suffered last year, the team will expect to play in front of a full house next year.

14. Rexall Place: Edmonton Oilers

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 20-15-6

    2006 - 19-19-3

    2007 - 23-17-1

    2008 - 18-17-6

    2009 - 24-14-3

     

    Stadium capacity: 16,839

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 16,832 (100.0%)

    2006 – 16,839 (100.0%)

    2007 – 16,839 (100.0%)

    2008 – 16,839 (100.0%)

    2009 – 16,839 (100.0%)

     

    Analysis:

    Although their team has not made the playoffs since losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, the faithful Oilers enthusiasts continue to fill the 36-year-old Rexall Place.

    Oilers fans are as passionate as they come.

    During game three of the Western Conference Finals in 2006 longtime Oilers anthem singer Paul Lorieau sang the first few lines of 'O Canada' before letting the stadium finish the rest of the song for him.

    This tradition continued throughout the postseason.

    It may be years before the Oilers are competitive again, but they know they will have the support of their fans until then.

13. United Center: Chicago Blackhawks

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 16-19-6

    2006 - 17-20-4

    2007 - 23-16-2

    2008 - 24-9-8

    2009 - 29-8-4

     

    Stadium capacity: 19,717 (22,428 standing room only)

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 13,318 (67.5%)

    2006 – 12,727 (62.1%)

    2007 – 16,814 (82.0%)

    2008 – 22,247 (111.2%)

    2009 – 21,356 (108.3%)

     

    Analysis:

    As a result of poor decision making by former owner Bill Wirtz, who did not allow the Hawks' home games to be filmed during the regular season, the Blackhawks were one of the least popular teams after the NHL lockout.

    However, since Bill's son Rocky has taken over the team in 2007 the Hawks have become a contender and fans in Chicago have responded by packing the spacious United Center and supporting their rejuvenated team, making the UC a can't-miss hockey venue.

    The recent success of the Blackhawks provides a model for struggling teams like the Coyotes, Thrashers, and Islanders to follow.

12. Xcel Energy Center: Minnesota Wild

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 23-16-2

    2006 - 29-7-5

    2007 - 25-11-5

    2008 - 23-11-7

    2009 - 25-12-4

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,064 (18,568 standing room only)

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 18,575 (102.8%)

    2006 – 18,543 (102.7%)

    2007 – 18,568 (102.8%)

    2008 – 18,568 (102.8%)

    2009 – 18,415 (101.9%)

     

    Analysis:

    After winning the Northwest Division in 2007 the Wild have been excluded from postseason; however, the team has sold out every game since its inception in 2000.

    The return of NHL hockey to Minnesota since the North Stars' departure in 1993 and a surprising run to the Western Conference Finals in 2003 generated enough interest in the Wild to keep the Xcel Energy Center full for home games.

    However, the team is no longer reaching standing room only capacity and if they continue to spin their wheels they will lose the momentum they initially generated.

11. Scotiabank Place: Ottawa Senators

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 29-9-3

    2006 - 25-13-3

    2007 - 22-15-4

    2008 - 22-12-7

    2009 - 26-11-4

     

    Stadium capacity: 19,153 (20,500 standing room only)

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 19,474 (101.7%)

    2006 – 19,372 (104.7%)

    2007 – 19,821 (107.1%)

    2008 – 18,949 (105.0%)

    2009 – 18,269 (98.8%)

     

    Analysis:

    The success of the Ottawa Senators provides fodder for Canadians who argue that there should be another NHL franchise in Canada.

    Unlike the Canadiens and Maple Leafs, the Senators are not an Original Six team, but still are supported as though they have been playing in Canada's capital long before 1992.

    Since the lockout the Sens have qualified for the playoffs in all but one year and advanced to the Finals in 2007. With continued success, their building should remain full for years to come.

10. HP Pavilion: San Jose Sharks

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 25-9-7

    2006 - 25-12-4

    2007 - 22-13-6

    2008 - 32-5-4

    2009 - 27-6-8

     

    Stadium capacity: 17,562

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 16,831 (95.8%)

    2006 – 17,422 (99.6%)

    2007 – 17,411 (99.5%)

    2008 – 17,488 (99.6%)

    2009 – 17,558 (100.0%)

     

    Analysis:

    The Sharks are a great example of a team that reentered a market that was considered unsuitable for hockey (the former Oakland Seals lasted only nine seasons before folding) and has been successful.

    The HP Pavilion at San Jose (known to the locals as The Shark Tank) is one of the loudest venues in hockey.

    Despite the team's playoff woes, fans from around the Bay Area pack the Tank in order to support their team.

    As a result the Sharks have become one of the NHL's toughest teams to play against, at least in the regular season...

9. Rogers Arena: Vancouver Canucks

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 25-10-6

    2006 - 26-11-4

    2007 - 21-15-5

    2008 - 24-12-5

    2009 - 30-8-3

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,423 (18,810 standing room only)

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 18,630 (101.1%)

    2006 – 18,630 (101.1%)

    2007 – 18,630 (101.1%)

    2008 – 18,630 (101.1%)

    2009 – 18,810 (102.1%)

     

    Analysis:

    Placed in the difficult Northwest Division, the Canucks have only made the playoffs three times since the lockout; however, every time they enter the postseason they look like a threat to win the Cup.

    Backed by standout goaltender Roberto Luongo and the superstar Sedin twins, the Canucks should be competitive for years to come.

    Although nothing is certain in the Northwest Division, the Canucks know that they have an edge when they play in Vancouver.

8. Madison Square Garden: New York Rangers

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 25-10-6

    2006 - 21-15-5

    2007 - 25-13-3

    2008 - 26-11-4

    2009 - 18-17-6

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,200

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 18,142 (99.7%)

    2006 – 18,200 (100.0%)

    2007 – 18,200 (100.0%)

    2008 – 18,172 (99.8%)

    2009 – 18,076 (99.3%)

     

    Analysis:

    While many teams struggle to draw large crowds to old stadiums, the large-market New York Rangers, who failed to advance to the playoffs last year for the first time since the lockout, come close to selling out Madison Square Garden (1968) every year.

    Unlike the Yankees, who perennially contend for an MLB championship by outspending the competition, the Rangers are bound by a salary cap and have failed to manage their money well.

    The Blueshirts have the fan support necessary to give them an edge in half of their games and, with better management, should emerge as a perennial contender in years to come.

7. Consol Energy Center: Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 12-21-8

    2006 - 26-10-5

    2007 - 26-10-5

    2008 - 25-13-3

    2009 - 25-12-4

     

    Stadium capacity: 16,940 (17,132 standing room only) – Mellon Arena

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 15,804 (93.3%)

    2006 – 16,424 (96.9%)

    2007 – 17,076 (100.7%)

    2008 – 16,975 (102.6%)

    2009 – 17,078 (100.7%)

     

    Analysis:

    Like the Blackhawks, the Penguins are a great example of a historic franchise that has become relevant as a result of good management.

    Penguins fans have packed Mellon Arena and provided a stable backing for their team since the lockout and the team has responded by winning a Stanley Cup in 2009.

    The city of Pittsburgh has rewarded Pens fans by building the Consol Energy Center, which will house the Penguins, ending their tenure in the Igloo, where they played since the franchise's inception in 1967.

6. HSBC Arena: Buffalo Sabres

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 27-11-3

    2006 - 28-10-3

    2007 - 20-15-6

    2008 - 23-15-3

    2009 - 25-10-6

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,690

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 - 16,886 (90.3%)

    2006 - 18,690 (100.0%)

    2007 - 19,950 (109.4%)

    2008 - 18,531 (99.2%)

    2009 - 18,529 (99.1%)

     

    Analysis:

    It is very difficult to be a sports fan in Buffalo.

    Between the four consecutive Super Bowl losses from 1990 to 1993 and the Brett Hull's crease infraction during the 1999 Stanley Cup Championship, fans in Western New York have been tormented by professional sports.

    However, the small-town, homegrown Sabres have become competitive year-in and year-out since the lockout and fans have responded by packing HSBC Arena and loudly supporting their team.

    Unfortunately, after a first round upset last year management in Buffalo has not done much in the offseason to improve the team...yet again testing the patience of their fans.

5. Wells Fargo Center: Philadelphia Flyers

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 22-13-6

    2006 - 10-24-7

    2007 - 21-14-6

    2008 - 24-13-4

    2009 - 24-14-3

     

    Stadium capacity: 19,537

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 19,653 (100.6%)

    2006 – 19,282 (98.9%)

    2007 – 19,556 (100.3%)

    2008 – 19,545 (100.2%)

    2009 – 19,535 (100.2%)

     

    Analysis:

    A brutal year in 2006 has not deterred Flyers enthusiasts.

    Regardless of how the Flyers are doing, the Wells Fargo Center (formerly the Wachovia Center) sells out annually (with the exception of their 2006 season, when the team only won 10 games at home) and they have rewarded their fans by advancing to the postseason four of the last five seasons since the lockout.

    With rabid, bloodthirsty fans dressed in orange the Wells Fargo Center resembles a penitentiary, giving the Flyers an edge any time they play in Philly. 

4. Pengrowth Saddledome: Calgary Flames

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 30-7-4

    2006 - 30-9-2

    2007 - 21-11-9

    2008 - 27-10-4

    2009 - 20-17-4

     

    Stadium capacity: 19,289

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 - 19,289 (100.0%)

    2006 - 19,289 (100.0%)

    2007 - 19,289 (100.0%)

    2008 - 19,289 (100.0%)

    2009 - 19,289 (100.0%)

     

    Analysis:

    The uniquely-shaped Saddledome, which was built in 1983, is one of the most overlooked historic hockey venues in the NHL.

    Despite being located in a small province of Calgary, the Himalayan arena is packed with obnoxious hockey enthusiasts regardless of how the team is doing on the ice.

    Backed by a giant sea of red, the Flames are one of the most difficult teams to play on the road in the NHL.

3. Joe Louis Arena: Detroit Red Wings

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 27-9-5

    2006 - 29-4-8

    2007 - 29-9-3

    2008 - 27-9-5

    2009 - 29-8-4

     

    Stadium capacity: 20,058

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 20,064 (100.0%)

    2006 – 20,066 (100.0%)

    2007 – 18,870 (94.0%)

    2008 – 19,865 (99.0%)

    2009 – 19,546 (97.4%)

     

    Analysis:

    In 25 of the last 27 seasons, the Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs, including a North American professional sports record of 19 consecutive appearances.

    Unlike perennial contenders in the NBA and MLB the Red Wings don't spend more money than other teams in the NHL (there's a salary cap): they have more Stanley Cup wins than any team in America because they draft well, are well coached, navigate around the cap well, and always have an advantage when they play in the Joe.

    The collapse of the auto industry has left a few seats open in the Joe, but the arena is usually close to capacity every night, full of fanatical hockey enthusiasts supporting their Wings.

2. Bell Centre: Montreal Canadiens

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 24-13-4

    2006 - 26-12-3

    2007 - 22-13-6

    2008 - 24-10-7

    2009 - 20-16-5

     

    Stadium capacity: 21,273

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 21,273 (100.0%)

    2006 – 21,273 (100.0%)

    2007 – 21,273 (100.0%)

    2008 – 21,273 (100.0%)

    2009 – 21,273 (100.0%)

     

    Analysis:

    The Canadiens, winners of an NHL-record 24 Stanley Cups, have not been to the Finals since defeating a Wayne Gretzky-led Kings in 1993, but still pack the Bell Centre every night.

    Since the lockout the Canadiens have only missed the playoffs once and last year, as an 8-seed, advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

    A major part of the Canadiens' ability to win as an underdog is that they can rely on a major home-ice advantage.

    Fans in Montreal fill a voluminous arena and vocally rattle the Plexiglas in support of their team.

1. Air Canada Centre: Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Home record since lockout:

    2005 - 26-12-3

    2006 - 21-15-5

    2007 - 18-17-6

    2008 - 16-16-9

    2009 - 18-17-6

     

    Stadium capacity: 18,800

     

    Average attendance since lockout:

    2005 – 19,408 (103.2%)

    2006 – 19,487 (103.7%)

    2007 – 19,434 (103.4%)

    2008 – 19,312 (102.7%)

    2009 – 19,260 (102.5%)

     

    Analysis:

    The Maple Leafs have not qualified for the playoffs since the lockout, but fans in Toronto continue to pack the Air Canada Centre to support their team.

    Hockey is major part of the culture in Toronto. Even with the Raptors and Blue Jays competing for attention in the city, Leafs enthusiasts stick it through with their team.

    It is now up to the Maple Leafs' management to put together a team that will take advantage of their crowds and turn the Leafs into perennial contenders.