Power Ranking the NHL Fanbases on Their Level of Passion for the Game
The NHL has fully come back from a lost season and is now, across the continent, as popular as it's ever been. Of the 30 teams in the league, 18 are averaging more than 99 percent of their capacity on a nightly basis, and 28 teams have made the playoffs since the lockout.
But which team has the most passionate fanbase?
In this piece, we rank all 30 teams' fans' passion.
Please read this carefully: This list, especially the top 10, is not taking anything away from most fans. Indeed, the difference between No. 1 and No. 7 isn't enormous.
30. Phoenix Coyotes
Passionate? It's hard to say that a fanbase that is months away from losing a franchise is overwhelming, and the desert has really only been an electric environment in the postseason. So far this year, the Coyotes are only averaging 61.2 percent of capacity at home.
29. Florida Panthers
Florida suffers from a lot of the same apathy that Phoenix does from the locals.
They're averaging a surprising 79.3 percent of capacity this year, undoubtedly a number that's been helped by the dollars GM Dale Tallon spent to improve the team this summer.
28. New York Islanders
Look at the photo, and what do you see? An Islanders player hitting a Jets player... and six empty seats within smelling distance of the ice.
Their owner doesn't engage, the team's highest-paid player is on the ice once a month, and they haven't been in the playoffs in how long?
The vote on their new stadium is all you need to see to reflect how fans in New York feel about the Isles.
27. Colorado Avalanche
There is a lot of great passion for hockey in Denver. It just happens to be within the arenas of the local colleges, such as the U. of Denver, and not when the Avs are at home. Drawing only 82.3 percent of their capacity at home, the Avs are one of the easiest tickets to land in the league despite having an intriguing, young team.
26. Dallas Stars
Again, look at all the empty seats. This isn't from a practice, either.
The Stars are battling for first place and are drawing only 54 percent of capacity, the worst number in the NHL by a staggering seven percent. They're bankrupt because the fans they have don't show up at games, despite how good the team might be.
25. Carolina Hurricanes
Their home attendance is almost as far below 100 percent as their captain is below break-even on his plus-minus this year.
They threw one heck of a party for the All-Star game last year, but they are barely drawing 81 percent of capacity at home.
24. Anaheim Ducks
They have one of the great future Hall of Fame players in the game playing at a high level, and the Ducks have had an exciting team for a few years. Yet they continue to sit in the bottom-third of the NHL in home attendance percentage (22nd this year at 86.8 percent).
23. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bolts are drawing 96.3 percent of their capacity this year, which ranks 20th in the NHL, but there is a more disturbing number that indicates the fans' passion in Tampa: zero. That's the number of Lightning players that ranked in the league's top 20 in jersey sales during the 2010-11 season. In most other markets, a player like Steven Stamkos would be around the top most seasons, but not in Tampa.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus ranks 28th in the NHL in average attendance so far this year, drawing only 74.5 percent of their capacity in a town that is admittedly more concerned with the Buckeyes than the Jackets.
However, when you consider their record to date, the fact that the good people in Columbus are filling three out of every four seats each night says a great deal about their passion for the game.
21. New Jersey Devils
They Devils aren't in the details, and their fans aren't in the seats.
New Jersey ranks 25th in attendance this year, and even the enormous media storm that surrounded the arrival of superstar Ilya Kovalchuk last summer couldn't get him into the league's top 20 jersey sales.
There's passion in Jersey, but it needs a winner to care.
20. Nashville Predators
Another empty seat on the glass. What an expensive shame!
Nashville just passed 1,000 games as a franchise, and they really have good fans in Music City. They're drawing almost 97 percent of capacity for their home games, which ranks 19th in the NHL this year. Their ranking here isn't an indictment of their fans, or saying they "lack passion," but rather an indication of how many arenas are on fire in the NHL right now.
19. Ottawa Senators
Again, as was the case with Nashville, this ranking is not an indictment of the good people in Ottawa as much as it is a reflection of the rest of the NHL having great fans. Ottawa slides to this position because they're one of the 15 teams in the league drawing less than 100 percent of their capacity at home games.
18. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have a very... LA fanbase. Big games get big crowds, successful teams get loud stands. If they slide, their attendance follows.
17. Buffalo Sabres
A good team and solid fans, but they aren't selling out every game despite the improvements made this summer. Will their fans stick up for a better rating than their team did when Miller got trucked? We'll see...
16. San Jose Sharks
The fans in San Jose have been treated to some great hockey over the last few years and have responded by packing their building on a nightly basis.
15. Calgary Flames
The Flames haven't been very good on the ice this year, but their fans continue to show up in big numbers. It's been years since they were a championship contender, but they are still selling out most of their home games.
14. New York Rangers
The Rangers are one of the great Original Six fanbases that continue to fill their arena on a nightly basis.
They're a great, passionate group of folks that can only wish they could be as explosive in their seats as John Tortorella is during postgame interviews.
13. Winnipeg Jets
They lost a team once in the last 20 years but have been great so far now that they have their own NHL franchise back in town. Among teams that are averaging 100 percent of capacity, the Jets have the lowest average attendance by far (15,004), more than 1,800 per night less than Edmonton.
12. Minnesota Wild
If you've ever been to a hockey game in Minnesota, your only question about this ranking is how it can be so low. South of the border, there aren't many states as wild about the game as they are in Minnesota.
11. St. Louis Blues
Fans of any sport in St. Louis are great, and their hockey fans are just as good as any others. They're selling out every game this year and have an exciting, young team to get behind.
10. Washington Capitals
They fill their home seats to over capacity almost every night and sell sweaters off the rack as well as any fanbase in the league. But passionate might not be the best word to describe the folks in our nation's capital.
9. Edmonton Oilers
It's been 30 years since they had this much young talent to be excited about, but the fans in Edmonton have always been fantastic. They're selling out every game this year, and the play on the ice is backing up the faith of their paying customers.
8. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks absolutely have passionate fans. They sell out every game, dress up like Halloween for a regular-season game and taunt players in the penalty box.
But they also nearly burned their city down after they lost in the Finals last spring. For that embarrassment, they cannot rank higher than eighth.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins
Even without Sidney Crosby on the ice, they're averaging over 102 percent of capacity attendance in the league. The fans in Pittsburgh mirror their coach, Dan Bylsma: consistently among the best in the league, no matter which players are available.
6. Detroit Red Wings
The Joe is one of the best places to watch a home game in the NHL.
They've been winning for years, and their fans enjoy the spoils of that winning. However, their great ownership is able to spend money because there are butts in every seat on a nightly basis.
5. Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers fans like to watch...a winner. And after some dramatic moves this summer, it will be interesting to see if they've put together the right mix for another deep postseason run.
4. Boston Bruins
The defending champions are the only team in the league to hold a unique distinction: They are averaging 100 percent of capacity attendance in both home and road games. They draw well and their fans travel well. Of course, it helps to be coming off a title.
3. Montreal Canadiens
To place the passion in Montreal in a proper perspective, think back to when Boston's Zdena Chara nearly killed a Habs opponent during a game. The Bruins could barely leave the building, and the police got involved in how major the penalty should be. They pack their building every night and love the game.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
It's hard to say there's a better barn in the league than Toronto, where the passion brings both positive energy and strong criticism. Perhaps the best indicator of the passion in Toronto is Ron Wilson's blood pressure on a game day.
1. Chicago Blackhawks
You can ask any rational media member from anywhere in North America that has actually attended a Blackhawks home game, and they'll tell you there isn't a tradition in sports like the anthem in Chicago.
They've led the league in attendance for more than three years now, and they sell as many sweaters as any team in the game as well.