When it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there really is no place like home.
It's why teams battle through an 82-game season, all in hopes of locking up home ice in at least the first round, if not more. The comfort of thousands surrounding the home team, holding their breath with every shot and save, ready to explode in an instant—it makes the playoffs what they are.
Whether it be waving towels, constant chants or non-stop cheering, the fans can play a major factor in any game—and often do. When you can get the crowd into a game, it becomes a powerful force behind a team, and it can leave the opposition eager for a plane ride out of there.
Get that towel waving and watch out for flying octopus.
You've got to feel for the fans of the Phoenix Coyotes—even if they don't exactly show up to games during the regular season or fool anyone into thinking the city is actually one that hockey belongs in. When the desert dogs get into the postseason, they're there to show their support.
Rumours of the team moving never really seem to stop, and that has to be tough for both the players and the fans in the city, who aren't exactly sure where the club will be in the coming years.
But for now, it's in Phoenix, and though they're not the worst home-ice advantage in the NHL, it's close if you take the whole season into account.
But you can bet the white out will always be in full force, a tradition that came with the club from Winnipeg, and the fans will be there with the club until the bitter end—both the end of the postseason and possibly their time in Phoenix all together.
Though their 2004 Stanley Cup victory is a ways off now, there's still plenty to remember from the Lightning's impressive run to the Cup, and the crowd that was part of that.
They may not be the same loud, unforgiving, raucous group they were back then, but the Tampa fans can still bring it, and when the playoffs sweep through town, they pack the building and put on a show to be sure. You never know, Hulk Hogan might even show up from time to time.
The fans haven't had as much to cheer about since they won it all seven years ago, but you can bet that if the team goes on another deep run, the faithful will come back in full throat—not to say they don't fill the place now, but they just don't have that same energy that was once there.
And once you've had it, you can tell when it's missing.
When you think of the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the first thing that pops into your mind is probably Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, but there's more than one sport that goes on between those walls, and the fans appreciate what goes on atop the ice as well.
The glamour and glitter of LA is always on display. When the Kings are on their game, the fans bring it with the best of them—and they aren't shy of reminding you that Gretzky once played there.
They even get the odd celebrity appearance, as events in LA tend to, and when you put it all together, a hockey game at the Staples Center can be quite the atmosphere.
The octopus is awesome. Not selling out every playoff game is so the opposite of awesome.
For the fans in San Jose to keep coming back every playoff season is impressive enough, as the Sharks haven't exactly put on much of a postseason show after almost always-successful regular seasons. They just seem to blow it every year. But the fans keep cheering, and you've got to hand it to them for that.
Although, you can bet if the team continues to start the playoffs with home ice and finish it with disappointment, the ones filling the Shark tank on a nightly basis will become less forgiving in a hurry.
But for hockey fans in California, they've shown they can impress in the postseason. They may not be a part of a franchise riddled with history and tradition, but they do love their team and usually have a good team on the ice in front of them.
And seeing as they could be on the beach instead, we salute you San Jose faithful.
They watched as their beloved Ducks took them all the way to the finals and won a Stanley Cup, and since then, Anaheim has maintained a constant buzz about the hometown team. They aren't afraid to show the visitors just how they feel.
And with one of the scariest lines in the NHL—Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf—they usually have a lot to cheer about.
Don't let the location of the team fool you. This is a fanbase that knows thockey, knows what it's like to win it all and one that can be a factor in how the Ducks play on home ice.
It may be the most famous arena in the world, but that doesn't mean the fans of the New York Rangers make it the most intimidating place to play in the NHL. Not to say that it can't be downright crazy at times.
The fans of New York love their sports, and the Rangers always play in front of an angry, energetic crowd; it just seems like sometimes they lose interest quickly if things aren't going their way—more so than other cities, that is. But who am I to judge, really?
In a heated rivalry game or thrown into the midst of a tight finish, fans of the Blueshirts can make visiting teams glad there's glass surrounding them, keeping an arena full of hate-filled New Yorkers out.
The constant "Avery" or "Henry" chants echo throughout games as well, which gives it that classic feel and reminds everyone who they love.
It may be a city known for country songs and cowboys, but put two teams on some ice and Nashville becomes a city filled with hockey-crazed maniacs with yellow towels waving and Carrie Underwood living and dying with every play of...whatever her husband's name is.
Yes, they haven't had much success in the playoffs during their short stint as an NHL team, but the fans in Nashville can get loud with the best of them for the home team—something that just might surprise those coming into town expecting everyone to be out at the local saloon. They still have those, right?
Nonetheless, Predators fans know how to do it right and bring some serious support to the home team every night.
If it were just play-by-play man Rick Jenerette in the building, that may be enough to make it one of the loudest places to watch a hockey game, but throw a bunch of hockey-mad people into the mix and Buffalo is one wild place to catch a game.
Or a punch in the face, if you're not careful.
The Sabres fans love their team and the small-town feel of the arena gives it a different feel than most other cities around the league. And when the team on the ice is roaring, the fans around them are always doing the same, surely worrying staff members about the stability of the building—not that it's a sight to behold from the outside anyway.
If you're fortunate enough to be at a game when the team is winning, the giant Sabre is blowing smoke out of its nose and the crowd is collectively losing its mind; it's one of the best places to see a game.
Their two best players may be currently out of the lineup, but it doesn't seem to be affecting the players on the ice too much—nor has it hurt the fans in the building either. Or at least not their ability to get loud.
Over the past few years, the Pittsburgh Penguins fans have gotten used to winning and they have gotten used to going deep into the postseason, so you can imagine they've had more than enough games to turn the brand new CONSOL Energy Center into one of the most intimidating places to play.
The all-white-everything attitude mixed with the on-ice swagger of the Pens makes Pittsburgh a particularly tough city to play in, never mind leaving town with a win.
Fans watching on TV have gotten used to seeing a lot of games in Pittsburgh of late, and there is no doubt around the league that, come playoff team, you better bring your A-game when in Sidney Crosby's town—because he's not the only reason the building isn't kind to visitors.
It's always a great day for hockey in Pittsburgh.
Whether it's Fenway Park or TD Banknorth Garden, Boston fans bring it with the best of them. And they're always, always in a bad mood just in time for the game.
It doesn't matter if the home team is losing or up big, as long a referee is involved, that's reason enough for the home crowd to jeer and swear until they're blue in the face. Every call is a bad one in the mind of the collective B's fans.
Boston is one of the best sports cities in the world, and when an opponent steps onto the ice to face the Bruins, you can bet they realize it almost immediately. They don't leave much to the imagination and let you know exactly how they feel.
In Vancouver, it comes down to two things for the home-ice advantage in the playoffs—waving towels and the always popular green men beside the penalty box. Both are staples at Canucks games and both are able to sway the feeling of a game and play with the opposition's mind.
The waving towels is one of the coolest things a crowd can collectively do, and there really isn't a city that does it better than Vancouver. It just looks good, and a wild group with thousands of waving rags above their heads is a huge boost for the home team.
As for the green men, who've been causing people to look forward to penalties more than usual these past few years, well, they're just classic.
As the visitor, if you dare get a penalty when in the building, you can usually expect to be greeted by skin-tight comedians on the other side of the glass. And they don't do the typical fan-like behaviour. They come with a plan and they make sure you notice it.
Props, acrobatics, nothing seems to be off limits for these guys, and it only adds to what is one of the best environments to watch a hockey game in the NHL.
There isn't a much cooler sight than 20,000 strong all dressed in orange, doing their best to throw the visitors off their game. Sports fans in Philadelphia are unlike any other, and when it comes to the Flyers, it's no different.
The Orange Crush doesn't just look intimidating. They're about as close as it comes to actually playing the game. The hostility they show at even the most minor of calls is almost scary. They, more than anyone, will get on referees and not let off the gas all game.
The environment is one of the best there is, and when the postseason comes rolling around, Flyers fans are at their finest—and by finest, I, of course, mean worst.
And by worst, I, of course, mean best.
If there's one thing the fans of the Chicago Blackhawks are known for, it's their shiver-inducing national anthem before the game—there simply is nothing like it anywhere else.
As soon as the singer bellows out the first note, the Hawks faithful start to cheer. And they don't let up the whole way through. Whether you're sitting in the middle of it or watching at home from your couch, it gets you incredibly pumped up for the game. And that's just the fans.
You can imagine what it would be like as a player, standing at center ice, with almost 20,000 wild fans standing, screaming their lungs out before the game has even started. Fantastic.
And then, of course, there is the ever-popular Fratellis song, "Chelsea Dagger" that is pumped out after every goal by the home team. It has to be the best goal song in the NHL, partly because it's so catchy, and partly because it's been haunting visiting teams for years.
Put it all together and Chicago is a great place to watch a hockey game, and the fans bring a huge advantage for the home team.
Just imagine having to play against the NHL's most historic, successful franchise in a city that eats, sleeps and breathes hockey 365 days a year. Now crank it up a notch for the playoffs, and you've got yourself a city and a crowd that frankly would choose their Canadiens over eating, sleeping or breathing, as long as they could survive the game.
And, oh by the way, win or lose, they'll probably set your car on fire.
Fans in Montreal are about as wild as it gets, and in the playoffs, there's nearly no comparison to any other club in the league. They go nuts whether there's a game on or not—and they do it in two languages.
Yes, when it comes to Habs fans and their hockey, it doesn't get much better. The "Ole" chant is a Montreal classic, and they're not afraid to let the opponent know when they're about to lose a game either, as they've made the "Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye!" chant famous as the final minutes tick down in a Canadiens victory.
It might be the most intimidating crowd moment in hockey—as long as it doesn't backfire on them, that is.
The Washington Capitals fans have been rocking the red for a few years now, but there might not be a louder rink in the NHL, especially when it comes to the playoffs.
The sea of red fans surrounding their beloved Caps live and die with every play on the ice, and when a goal is scored and the siren's blaring, the building is deafening. It doesn't hurt that the players on the ice are some of the most exuberant in the league, and when they're slamming into the glass after a goal, it only adds to the madness on the other side.
It's a wonder how the ice doesn't crack when the place gets going.
Right now, playoff hockey in the crowd isn't any crazier than in Washington. And though they haven't had the success each and every crazed patron would have liked in recent years, they come back stronger and louder every season.
And if they were ever to win a Cup on home ice, the Capital city might have a not-so-life-threatening code red on their hands.