NHL: 10 Best Hockey Cities in North America
Widely regarded as "Canada's sport," hockey is becoming increasingly popular in the United States and has deep roots in a handful of American cities that were part of the NHL's "Original Six."
A few markets are dwindling and have been unable to hold the attention of their fans, but the majority of the NHL's 30 clubs are backed by loud, enthusiastic and supportive fan bases.
While many of these hockey-crazed fans reside in Canada, which is home to a number of outstanding hockey towns, there are a few U.S cities in which hockey is the No. 1 sport.
Here are the 10 best hockey cities in all of North America.
10. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Isn't it crazy how the addition of one player can reignite a fan base?
Pittsburgh Penguins fans endured years of mediocrity prior to the drafting of superstar pivot Sidney Crosby. Now, they cheer for one of league's most exciting squads.
The Penguins have re-solidified themselves as an elite team and their die-hards are loving every glorious minute.
9. Boston, Massachusetts
One of the aforementioned Original Six, the Boston Bruins played their first season in 1924, making them the third oldest franchise in the NHL and the oldest club in the United States.
Needless to say, they have a rich history and a winning tradition, with the second most Stanley Cups won by an American team at six.
There's never a dull moment at the always-packed TD Garden.
8. New York City, New York
The New York Rangers are another Original Six club and were the first American team to ever win a Stanley Cup.
They joined the NHL as an expansion team in 1926 and have played every home game in franchise history at the storied Madison Square Garden.
Baseball will always be the most followed sport in New York, but the Rangers have a massive fan base that has been behind them through the highs and lows. A fantastic hockey city without a doubt.
7. Edmonton, Alberta
Though they play in a fairly small city, the Edmonton Oilers have amassed a sizable following in one of Canada's top hockey markets.
They became an established NHL franchise in 1972 and won back-to-back Stanley Cups in the mid '80s and again in the late '80s.
The Oilers have been among the league's weakest teams for the past few seasons but are slowly climbing back up the standings as their talented youth continues to improve. If their fans cheered hard and loud during their basement-dwelling years, imagine how loud Rexall Place will be when the Oilers inevitably earn a playoff berth in the not-so-distant future.
6. St. Paul, Minnesota
The play of the Minnesota Wild has been less than stellar in recent years, but St. Paul is swarming with avid hockey enthusiasts and has a strong hockey culture.
Up until September of last year, the Wild had sold out every single one of their home games since their inaugural season in 2000. That's 409 consecutive sellouts—one of the longest streaks in NHL history.
5. Detroit, Michigan
Founded in 1926, the Detroit Red Wings are another U.S.-based Original Six team.
They have won a whopping 11 Stanley Cups in their distinguished history, the most of any American team and the third most in the entire league behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.
Detroit is commonly referred to as "Hockeytown" due to the presence of a massive and knowledgeable fan base. Hockey is a big deal in the Motor City, home to one of the greatest clubs in NHL history.
4. Calgary, Alberta
Calgary's "Sea of Red" is truly a sight to behold. The Scotiabank Saddledome is always rocking, despite the Flames' recent struggles.
Yet another hockey-crazed town in Canada, where the Flames and Oilers clash in some epic showdowns in the heated Battle of Alberta.
3. Vancouver, British Columbia
The reigning Presidents' Trophy winners as the league's top regular season team, the Vancouver Canucks boast one of the most passionate fanbases in the game.
Vancouver hockey fans have routinely packed Rogers Arena, which seats 18,860 people, even through the team's rough patches. The city bleeds Canucks blue and green.
2. Toronto, Ontario
Yet another Original Six franchise, the Toronto Maple Leafs have won the second most Stanley Cups in the league with 13.
They haven't brought home a Cup since 1967, giving them the longest active Cup drought in the NHL, yet they are still the league's most profitable team and North America's biggest hockey market.
Individual Leafs tickets are the most expensive in the game and there is an estimated 70-year waiting list for season tickets. The Air Canada Centre is always packed and deafeningly loud.
1. Montreal, Quebec
Originally founded in 1909, the Montreal Canadiens are the longest operating professional ice hockey team in the world and the only team in the NHL to predate the founding of the league.
They've won a league-leading 24 Stanley Cups, solidifying themselves as one of the most successful sports franchises in all of North America. Since 1927, the Canadiens have won 25 percent of all Stanley Cup championships.
You'll be hard-pressed to spend more than five minutes in Montreal without seeing a Canadiens sweater. The city's inhabitants live for hockey and are, without question, the best hockey fanbase in not only North America, but the entire world.
Sam Kelly is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @samkelly10.