The NHL’s best (and worst) fans
For scoring two goals in Game 7 to help beat the defending champion Detroit Red Wings and win the Stanley Cup last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Max Talbot(notes) earned a spot at the breakfast table in every Pittsburgh household – on the town’s “City of Champions”-themed cereal boxes. But Penguins fans deserved a spot on the box too – for being the best in the NHL.
How do we know? For the 2008-09 season, we ranked teams based on average regular-season home game attendance as a percentage of arena capacity, regular-season local television viewers as a percentage of the team’s metro area population and team merchandise sales.
Pens fans emerged the most fanatical. They consumed the most team merchandise last season, led by jerseys sales of NHL poster boy Sidney Crosby(notes) and Art Ross Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin(notes). Televised games drew an average 72,644 households each on FSN Pittsburgh. On top of that the Igloo, as Mellon Arena is affectionately known, sold out every game in the 2008-09 season – the second year in a row.
|In Pictures: NHL’s best and worst fans|
Over in Philadelphia, Flyers fans put themselves third on our list, and proved even more die-hard than their cross-state rivals. They too filled their arena, the Wachovia Center, to capacity the last two seasons, but did so minus the wins required for back-to-back Stanley Cup final appearances. Bonus: In an ESPN.com survey of NHL players last February Flyers fans were voted “Most Disruptive.” Ah, Philly.
Despite their team finishing near the bottom of the entire league winning only 41 percent of their games last season and missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season, the Toronto Maple Leafs fans toughed it out to rank second on our list. Each of the other five Canadian teams finished in the top half of our ranking, including the Montreal Canadiens who ranked fourth. It is a wonder what would have to happen for Canadians to turn their back on hockey.
On the other hand, Florida Panthers won half of their games and ranked dead last, having pulled in the worst TV ratings and least amount of merchandise sales despite being in the ninth largest market. But to boot, each of the other four teams that ranked at the bottom is a Sun Belt expansion or relocation team.
The San Jose Sharks managed to buck this trend of its warm weather counterparts, again. But the news was still hot and cold. While the team skated to the best record in the league, their fans ranked in the middle of the pack, behind teams in smaller markets, and with losing records, like the Minnesota Wild, who ranked fifth on our list.
Boston Bruins fans skated on thin ice too. The B’s tied the Sharks for the best record in the league last year. Yet their fans ranked 17th in terms of attendance, putting them in the middle of the pack in our ranking. It was an increase over the previous year, but the worst among the NHL’s Original Six. Wicked.
The top five:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins: Slideshow
2. Toronto Maple Leafs: Slideshow
3. Philadelphia Flyers: Slideshow
4. Montreal Canadiens: Slideshow
5t. Chicago Blackhawks: Slideshow
• Click here for the worst fans in hockey