Forbes has recently put out a list of the best fans for the four major sports leagues in North America (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL). The list includes the top four teams from each of the leagues. The NHL is represented by the following teams:
3. Detroit Red Wings
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
11. Montreal Canadiens
16. Chicago Blackhawks
This excerpt from the Forbes article explains how the list was comprised:
"To produce a list of the best fans in U.S. sports, we looked at every team in the "Big Four" U.S. professional sports leagues: football (NFL), basketball (NBA), baseball (MLB), and hockey (NHL).For each team, we gathered three different metrics. First, we measured their home and away game attendance, which indicates a team's drawing power in its home market and nationwide. Then we counted their merchandise sales (Numbers for the NFL, NBA and MLB were provided to us by Sportsonesource, a sporting good industry analyst, and the NHL gave us their own data). Finally, we ranked each team's in-market popularity, based on surveys of American sports teams by Turnkey Sports and Entertainment. We ranked all of the teams, then took the top four from each of the four leagues."
In my opinion, the list is too heavily influenced by the current state of the teams. It does not give any consideration to the past. I don't think it's a coincidence that three of the four teams on the list are the three most recent Stanley Cup winners. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks are two of the best teams in the league with some of the top stars in the game; they are also the two most recent Stanley Cup winners. Winning the Stanley Cup and having superstar players not only will increase attendance but it will also boost merchandise sales. I am pretty sure that a large majority of Penguins and Hawks fans have some form of Stanley Cup gear for their teams. Now I don't doubt that Penguins fans or Hawks fans have a strong passion for their team, but prior to them icing cup contenders their home attendance numbers don't compete with teams like the Canadiens, and Leafs.
In the 07/08 season the Hawks had an 82% home game attendance rate, and in 06/07 it was 62% (second lowest in the league). That is only 3 seasons ago! The Penguins had a home game attendance rate of 93% in 05-06 (Sidney Crosby's rookie season) and the worst attendance in the league in 03-04 (70%).
If you want to talk about the best fans, you need to consider how those fans act in years when the team is not performing well. You need to eliminate all the people that jump on the bandwagon while the team is the flavor of the week. To Forbes' credit, they give this as one of the reasons for the top team on their list, the Boston Red Sox.
Here are my top 4 NHL team fans:
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Montreal Canadiens
3. Detroit Red Wings
4. Philadelphia Flyers
Which NHL teams do you think have the best fans?