Ranking the NHL’s fan bases, from 1 to 30

Matt Larkin
Leafs fans top our rankings because they keep paying absurd amounts of money to support their team despite its struggles. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
Leafs fans top our rankings because they keep paying absurd amounts of money to support their team despite its struggles. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

What constitutes true fanhood? The easy explanation is the eye and ear test. The loudest, most decked-out supporters come across as diehard fans – like those of the big, bad Boston Bruins.

To THN, however, fanhood is about faith above all else. It’s not just supporting your team when the going is easy. What about standing behind your team when the losses pile up and paying to watch it lose when it costs you an arm and a leg? The Bruins fill the TD Garden, but the last time they missed the playoffs – twice in the season-and-a-half following the Joe Thornton trade – they ranked near the bottom in attendance. On the other end, look at a team like Edmonton. Year after year, the Oilers struggle to progress in their “rebuild,” yet the fans keep coming, selling out Rexall Place and paying top dollar to watch a flailing operation.

It’s easy to make fun of fan bases that blindly support their struggling franchises, but isn’t that what true fanhood is, unconditional love? We set out to create a fan ranking system that rewards such a quality. The formula applies the past five completed NHL seasons. The final rankings were an aggregate score over each category. Perfect science my algorithm ain’t, but we believe we’ve concocted an objective system. We published the results in our Nov. 24 Fan Issue of THN.

The following legend breaks down the fan ranking criteria:

FanLegend_644x467

The algorithm yielded the following final results (click here for a zoomed in, easy-to-read version of the chart, which includes the skinny on each team):

FanChart_1620x2318

It will shock many to see a team like Toronto finish first. Especially after seeing fans toss jerseys onto the ice in the middle of a 9-2 home loss Tuesday night. But stop and contemplate that those same fans will buy more jerseys and return to the rink for more punishment. That’s the definition of loyalty. A quick summary of the final rankings, based on aggregate score across all categories:

1. Toronto Maple Leafs (5 points)
2. Chicago Blackhawks (16 points)
3. Montreal Canadiens (17 points)
4. Vancouver Canucks (26 points)
5. Edmonton Oilers (30 points)
6. Philadelphia Flyers (31 points)
7. Winnipeg Jets (31 points)
8. Calgary Flames (35 points)
9. Pittsburgh Penguins (35 points)
10. Minnesota Wild (37 points)
11. New York Rangers (42 points)
12. Boston Bruins (43 points)
13. Los Angeles Kings (48 points)
14. Detroit Red Wings (52 points)
15. San Jose Sharks (56 points)
16. Ottawa Senators (62 points)
17. Washington Capitals (64 points)
18. Buffalo Sabres (68 points)
19. St. Louis Blues (83 points)
20. Nashville Predators (88 points)
21. New Jersey Devils (88 points)
22. New York Islanders (92 points)
23. Carolina Hurricanes (93 points)
24. Tampa Bay Lightning (93 points)
25. Florida Panthers (97 points)
26. Anaheim Ducks (98 points
27. Colorado Avalanche (101 points)
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (101 points)
29. Dallas Stars (106 points)
30. Arizona Coyotes (119 points)

Now it’s time to defend your team in the comments below. Just make sure you view the complete ranking chart first. Think before you type. Have at it!

*The Fan Value rating reflects cost for four people to attend a game.

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin