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Detroit Red Wings rank as highest NHL team on Forbes' Best American Sports Fans list

Aug 2, 2010, 10:50 PM EDT

thanksrocky.jpgForbes.com named “America’s Best Sports Teams” (yet included the Montreal Canadiens … although I guess they wear something resembling America’s colors) and four NHL teams made the list.

These lists are often flawed because they tend to ignore history (opening the door for dreaded “bandwagon” teams). Really, judging from their write-up regarding the list’s criteria, a more accurate headline would probably be “North America’s Most Relatively Profitable Teams.” But I digress …

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.

Here are the four NHL teams who made it, building toward the highest ranked club.

16. Chicago Blackhawks

Just another bit of evidence that the team made gigantic strides from the “Dollar Bill” Wirtz days. Sure, the team might still be in the “red” but I wonder if that’s more about the losses they endured in the bad days than what they’ve managed to do in recent years. The question, is, though: will they rank so highly if the team does falter?

detredwingsfans.jpg11. Montreal Canadiens

The “American” thing confuses me. Was this an oversight by the author or just a headline writing snafu? Either way, Montreal features one of sports’ most devoted groups of fans. Just like every Canadian NHL team, though. Hmph.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins

Basically the Blackhawks, but a year or two in the future. It’s kind of surprising their rivals in D.C. didn’t make the list, though.

3. Detroit Red Wings

Hard to argue with the Red Wings being on this list (braces for “But they don’t always sell out all of their playoff games”-type comments). Things are rough in the city of Detroit, but the Red Wings are a saving grace for the hard-luck region. Hopefully GM Ken Holland can keep the team in “Hockeytown” strong.

If you’re wondering who made it in front of the Red Wings, it was the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 2) and MLB’s Boston Red Sox (No. 1). These lists are engineered for debates, so I’ll play the game: are those the four teams who represent the four most devoted fan bases in the NHL? Should the Red Wings/highest ranked NHL team come in higher than No. 3? Share your thoughts in the comments.

  1. Hoog - Aug 3, 2010 at 12:32 AM

    Once again, the Hawks have had a strong fanbase for decades. Bill Wirtz did everything he could to destroy the team, and its fanbase. If the owner essentially tells the fans, f.u., what are the fans supposed to do, support him? This isn’t Atlanta, Phoenix, Tampa, or Carolina, where hockey is a new thing. EVERY team has bandwagon jumpers when things are good. EVERY TEAM.

  2. Mike - Aug 3, 2010 at 12:42 AM

    i definitely think the flyers should have been on the list, theyre constantly on the top 5 for league attendance. no way the pens should b on there, a few years ago you could see tumbleweeds blowing through the stands. ever since they won the cup all the bandwagon fans jumped aboard. theyre basically the phillies, b4 the world series championship nobody wore anything phillies, now all i see is red shirts everywhere.

  3. @keithdotson - Aug 3, 2010 at 1:06 AM

    I agree with the Red Wings being where they are. It is not only the fan base in the city, but next away game, look at all the Wings jerseys in the crowd in places such as Anaheim and the like. One could argue that times are so tough all of the fans had to move out of the state to find jobs and come when the Wings are in town, but you saw this a decade ago and you are seeing it still today.

  4. Ryan - Aug 3, 2010 at 6:55 AM

    Sad excuse for a list. How the Pens are on there, when the franchise has almost died twice, is beyond me. Philadelphia’s a much bigger draw, as we saw during the finals.

  5. Bill - Aug 3, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    How the Rangers are not on this list is a little crazy. As loyal a fan as any in sports.

  6. Jay - Aug 3, 2010 at 8:33 AM

    Pittsburgh? Really? A team with 3 bankruptcies on its record? That’s absurd. At least Chicago has an excuse in Bill Wirtz…Pittsburgh let Mario’s franchise die twice, and in 1975 the IRS had to lock the team out of its facilities for not having the money to pay its taxes. Some “great” fanbase…
    The teams that I think belong on here are:
    1. Detroit
    2. Toronto
    and in no particular order:
    Montreal
    Philly
    San Jose
    Those teams do well every year, even when they’re terrible (though for Detroit and San Jose it’s been a while). You can never really tell how loyal the Rangers fans are considering there’s like 7 million people in NY so they can surely find 20,000 to buy a ticket any given night. Could someone please fire Sather?

  7. Matt - Aug 3, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    Leaving the MN Wild off this list (most wildly rabid fans in the NHL along with the Habs) totally blows its credibility in my opinion. Ten straight years of sellouts, MN Wild gear EVERYWHERE in the state, and highly profitable. The Blackhawks just became relevant again 2 or 3 years ago, and until then were running about 25% capacity at home games. This “list” is a joke.

  8. Mike - Aug 3, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    how is chicago on this list. those bandwagon fans just found out about their hockey team 2 years ago

  9. Matt - Aug 3, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    Hawks….”strong fan base for decades”? LMAO!! BWAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  10. geography101 - Aug 3, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    You do realize that the United States OF America is only a small part of America? Get a brain moran.

  11. Gary Bettman - Aug 3, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    Read the criteria, haters. Home and away attendance – tell me who gets more fans at away games than the Wings, Pens, and Hawks? Merchandise sales – again, who sells more? Philly should be on the list but you don’t see much Flyers gear outside the greater Philly area, either. Popularity – of course the winning teams now are going to be popular! I’m actually surprised the Yankees aren’t higher on the list.
    “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.”

  12. James O'Brien - Aug 3, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    I don’t know where to start with that “moranic” comment.

  13. Haha - Aug 3, 2010 at 2:20 PM
  14. wingers - Aug 3, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    really?

  15. Chris - Aug 3, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    These lists should go back over the past 30 years, so the pens 6 successful years are dampened. All you have to do is look at the Pens fans who claim to be Phillies fans as well to see the character of those fans. As someone who went to PSU (right between Philly and Pitt), I saw this every day. Their fans can’t name 5 players from 1995-2005 not named Jagr or Lemieux. My first two years at PSU there were no Pens jerseys, by the end of my final year they were everywhere. What a joke.

  16. Doc Emrick - Aug 4, 2010 at 3:39 AM

    The Black Hawks and Pens on this list. Only on a site from
    Nothing
    But
    Crosby

  17. Patrick - Aug 5, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    montreal is the place with the craziest fans (atmospher in the bell center,attendance,tv…,and hockey knowledge)

  18. Anonymous - Aug 14, 2010 at 2:22 AM

    Lol
    “Moran”

  19. Cody - Aug 25, 2010 at 11:16 PM

    I am shocked that the Blackhawks are on this list. First off they just won a Stanley Cup and the whole time I have lived here no one spoke of the Hawks like they were no longer in Chicago. The Red Wings deserve to be on this list because those are some of the most devoted fans in the world and not just hockey, but sports in general I mean up until last season the Lions were selling out every home game. The Canadians needed to be on the list because they added some great headlines to the NHL and are the Yankees of Hockey (championships and hall of fame personal). Then again this was a US LIST so it did make sense after allowing the US list title sink in.

  20. Paul - Aug 31, 2010 at 5:54 AM

    I am a Hawks fan from the early 60′s. Their fan base has always been there, waiting for Dollar Bill Wirtz to go. NHL hockey surviving in the U.S. was built on the backs of Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull. The number is 16,666. Fans at old Chicago Stadium, every game. My dad scalped (bought) $4.00 tickets for $15.00, IN 1963, to a Christmas night game against Toronto. They ruled Chicago then, and do now.

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