Ranking the NHL's home crowds
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Ranking the NHL's home crowds

Attending an NHL game in person can be an incredible thrill, even if you are not a huge hockey fan. The speed of the game, the physicality, the excitement, the atmosphere, the energy — all of it makes for an incredible show that can keep you on the edge your seats, even for something as routine as a regular-season game. Multiply that by about 10 as you go further in the playoffs. That excitement is even better when the home crowd is in the game. Is it the crowd itself that makes things exciting? The style of game the home team plays? The production of the team's in-house entertainment? It is probably all of that working together. Here we take a look at the best arena atmospheres in the NHL by ranking all 31 home crowds across the league. 

Florida Panthers
Robert Mayer, USATI

The Florida Panthers have never given their fans a chance or a reason to care. Outside of a miracle Stanley Cup Final run during the 1995-96 season (the Year of the Rat, when Panthers fans littered the ice with plastic rats after every single goal they scored), the team has just been bad. Consistently bad. In this its 25th season of existence, the team has qualified for the playoffs just five times, made it out of the first round only once and has missed the playoffs in 16 out of the past 18 seasons. Add in some curious roster decisions, some bad moves, and, again, a team that consistently loses and what reason is there for anyone to be excited or get on board with what the team is doing? You have to win to build a fan base and the Florida Panthers have never done that. 

Arizona Coyotes
Matt Kartozian, USATI

This is a tough situation. The Coyotes do not draw particularly well, and when they do it is usually because visiting teams have significant numbers of their fans in the stands. That said, can you really blame Coyotes fans for their skepticism? The arena is difficult to get to, the team's future is seemingly always in jeopardy and they simply have not been good for the better part of the past 15 years — outside of a three-year playoff run in 2010, 2011 and 2012 that reached its peak with a surprising run to the Western Conference Final during the 2011 12 season. There is potential there, and the region produced one of the game's next superstars in Auston Matthews, but the team has to give the fans reason to show up. 

Anaheim Ducks
Kelvin Kuo, USATI

The Anaheim Ducks were the first team to introduce an over-the-top pregame show in their debut way back in 1993. It was one of the most insane creations the NHL has ever seen, and it included a mascot (The Mighty Iceman) that was so bad the team got rid of him before the first game even concluded. It has been downhill ever since. 

Ottawa Senators
Dan Hamilton, USATI

This is just a depressing situation. The fans hate the owner, the owner seems to go out of his way to make the fans hate him. All of their stars have been traded, and ownership has completely dismantled a team that just two years ago was a Game 7, double-overtime game away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Finally, Ottawa's best hope for a franchise-changing player in the form of a potential No. 1 overall draft pick belongs to the Colorado Avalanche as the result of a failed trade for Matt Duchene. Oh, and the arena is in the middle of nowhere, and the aforementioned owner keeps threatening to move the team. If you can get excited about your team after all of that, I salute you. But I don't know how you do it. By the looks of things, not many people in Ottawa do anymore. 

Los Angeles Kings
Kirby Lee, USATI

You will see your share of celebrities at Kings games, and a lot of boring, dull hockey that can put even the most dedicated fan to sleep. The most unique thing here is the Eric Cartman "Go Kings Go" video that seems oddly out of place. But a South Park producer is a die-hard fan of the team. 

Carolina Hurricanes
James Guillory, USATI

This is a fan base that could soon be climbing the rankings. Rapidly. With a new owner who has completely changed the culture of the franchise and an exciting team that is making games fun with their Storm Surge celebrations after wins, there is something building in Raleigh. It just needs a team that consistently wins to make it all come together. That is starting. 


25. Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche
Isaiah J. Downing, USATI

There are a lot of distinct things about a Colorado Avalanche game that stand out when you watch it: the Super Mario Bros. "power up" noise as soon as the Avalanche successfully kill off a penalty; the PA announcer that sounds like he is at a Monster Truck rally and gets REALLY into his calls (this is not a knock on him...it is great). But the crowd itself doesn't really stand out. 

New Jersey Devils
Ed Mulholland, USATI

Often times the Devils are the forgotten hockey team in the New York-New Jersey metro area, but they have also been the only one to actually win a championship in the past 25 years. Unfortunately as that championship success has dried up and the team has struggled to get back to the playoffs, fans have not had much to cheer about. The Prudential Center is one of the league's best arenas, but the team on the ice has not always given the fans much reason to make it rock. Probably the most exciting thing to happen this season was David Puddy from "Seinfeld" trying to support the team and then falling as he walked off the ice. 

St. Louis Blues
Jeff Curry, USATI

There is nothing really bad to say about St. Louis Blues fans. There is also really nothing that separates them from any other fan base in the NHL. They support their team. They are vocal. They just kind of exist. That's fitting of a team that is pretty good, but not great, and is just kind of...in the middle of the pack and indistinguishable from the rest of the teams in the middle of the pack. 

Vancouver Canucks
Anne-Marie Sorvin, USATI

One of the great moments in Stanley Cup Playoff history was when former Vancouver Canucks coach Roger Neilson, upset with officiating in a 1981 playoff game, waived a white towel as a sign of surrender from the bench, an act that ended up getting him ejected from the game. At the following home game, Canucks fans responded by waiving white towels of their own, starting a tradition that still continues today (known as "Towel Power") for Canucks playoff games.  

Dallas Stars
Jerome Miron, USATI

My favorite thing about Dallas Stars crowds is they have a die-hard fan who sits in the front row and used to the bang on the glass so much the team actually had to tell him to tone it down. He now holds up a sign against the glass that just says "BANG." Whatever works, my friend. Whatever works. 

Edmonton Oilers
Perry Nelson, USATI

You have to give the fans credit for continuing to put up with what might be the league's most incompetent management that has, to this point, completely wasted a generational superstar in Connor McDavid. Watch out for flying jerseys, though, because Oilers fans have been known to throw them on the ice as a form of protest when the team stinks. 

Detroit Red Wings
Raj Mehta, USATI

When the Red Wings are good and in the postseason, their crowds can be amazing, from the Octopus in the playoffs to their karaoke sing-alongs late in games. But the team has not been good for a few years now, may not be for a while, and the excitement is just...gone. For now. 

Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire, USATI

Like the Maple Leafs the Pittsburgh Penguins sell out every game, and just like Maple Leafs games there is something missing from the atmosphere at times. Unlike the Maple Leafs it is not because of a corporate vibe in the seats but because the fans are just so used to success. Regular-season games do not carry much importance, as everyone just seems to be waiting around for the playoffs to begin. With three Stanley Cups and four Stanley Cup Final appearances in the past 10 years and consistently having some of the game's greatest players for the past 30 years (plus two other Stanley Cups), there is not much for the fans to be angry about. The building can still rock during the playoffs, especially if the Penguins go beyond the first round. 

Toronto Maple Leafs
John E. Sokolowski, USATI

Yes, they are an Original Six team with a storied history. Yes, they fill the place every night. Yes, it is often times cheaper for their fans to travel to an away game than it is to attend a home game in Toronto. But do you know what that means for the actual crowd in Toronto? Nothing. The Maple Leafs fans who watch their team play in other cities seem to bring more emotion and noise than the Maple Leafs fans who watch the games in Toronto. Middle of the pack suits them well. 

Tampa Bay Lightning
Reinhold Matay, USATI

Any arena that has Tesla coils is going to get points from me. Tampa Bay is an underrated hockey market that has been a great addition to the NHL. The Lightning have been one of the league's best teams for a few years now and put on a great show during games with an energetic crowd behind them.  

Columbus Blue Jackets
Aaron Doster, USATI

Cheering for a team that has not won a postseason series in its existence and has won only a handful of postseason games, it would be easy for Blue Jackets fans to become totally indifferent about their team. But they can bring it with the best of them in big games and even though it is loathed by visiting sports writers, visiting fans,and even visiting players, "The Cannon" is a tremendous goal celebration. 

Minnesota Wild
Brad Rempel, USATI

Hockey is pretty much a religion in Minnesota, and the "State of Hockey" definitely delivers a strong atmosphere. I just have one complaint: the fans' insistence on trying to turn "Wild" into a two-syllable word when they chant it. 

San Jose Sharks
John Hefti, USATI

It's always one of the loudest crowds in the league, and it's in an environment that is aided by one of the coolest introductions in sports, as the Sharks emerge from a giant, glowing shark head that is slowly lowered to the ice. 

Calgary Flames
Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI

While Winnipeg is known for the "White Out," it is often forgotten that the tradition was only started in response to the Calgary Flames' "C Of Red" tradition that encourages fans to wear red. It still exists today when the Flames make the playoffs. 

Buffalo Sabres
Kevin Hoffman, USATI

Based on the excitement and passion, you would never guess this has been one of the NHL's worst teams for nearly a decade — and not really getting any closer to contention. Fans this dedicated and passionate deserve a better product. The Sabres also get major marks for having the league's best goal song (DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat").

Boston Bruins
Greg M. Cooper, USATI

Boston sports fans have been spoiled with success over the past 15 years with Super Bowls, World Series titles, an NBA championship and a Stanley Cup from the Bruins. The Bruins tend to be forgotten about on the sports scene (at least on a national level), but they have a rabid following in the city. The only thing their games are missing now is Rene Rancourt's pre-game fist pumps after singing the national anthem. 

Philadelphia Flyers
Stan Szeto, USATI

In keeping with the tradition and reputation of Philadelphia sports fans, this might be one of the most intense, demanding and intimidating crowds in the league — never shy about telling the referees or opposing players (and sometimes even their own team) how little they think of them. 

New York Rangers
Danny Wild, USATI

There is nothing truly special about Madison Square Garden as a building, even after the renovations. It's an arena that if it were located as it is in any other American city, it wouldn't have anywhere near the appeal or notoriety that it does. It's basic. That does not mean it is not a great place to watch a game. There is an energy and excitement in the building that is among the best in the league no matter where the Rangers are in the standings or what their record is, and they have their own distinct goal song and one of the league's classic goal horns. If you are lucky enough to see a Rangers win, you get the salute at center ice from the team. 

Washington Capitals
Brad Mills, USATI

The way they Rock The Red in the postseason is a sight to behold. And after years of frustration, playoff heartbreak and disappointment they finally got a chance to see their team lift the Stanley Cup in 2018, kicking off one of the wildest championship celebrations you will ever see...from the team and the fans. 

Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Gorski, USATI

During the 1985 postseason with the Chicago Blackhawks trailing the Edmonton Oilers dynasty, 2-0, Blackhawks fans began wildly cheering the national anthem before the game in an effort to rally their team. The tradition has remained in place ever since and is now one of the signature fan traditions in all of sports. 

New York Islanders
Brad Penner, USATI

They make the top four with an asterisk: It has to be the New York Islanders games at the Nassau Coliseum. The Barclays Center is an amazing, state-of-the-art venue that is worth seeing if you have the chance, but it is not built for hockey and it lacks atmosphere for Islanders game. But Islanders games at the Coliseum again? Now that the team is back there on a semi-regular basis? It can be one of the loudest buildings in the NHL — just an old hockey barn filled with history and raucous fans when the team is good. 

Nashville Predators
Christopher Hanewinckel, USATI

This is the closest thing you might find to a college crowd in the NHL. The intensity really gets cranked up to 11 during the Stanley Cup playoffs when pregame catfish hit the ice, and the goalie taunts take over the entire arena after every Predators goal. Nashville is the proof that hockey can work in "non-traditional" markets if you put a good team on the ice and create a fun atmosphere. 

Montreal Canadiens
Jean-Yves Ahern, USATI

If you are a hockey fan, seeing a game in Montreal has to be somewhere on your bucket list because it is a classic environment that does the team's history justice. It's a tough and demanding yet knowledgeable crowd that can blow the roof off the place come playoff time. If you hear the "Ole, Ole, Ole" song echoing throughout the building, you know things are not going well for the visiting team. 

Vegas Golden Knights
Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI

It has not taken them long to rocket to the top of this list. Part of it is the excitement and energy of the crowd. Part of it is the Vegas flare that the Golden Knights play up in their pre-game introductions. Part of it is the building-shaking music that blasts through the arena during warmups. All of it together makes for one of the NHL's greatest environments. Of course, none of this would be possible if the team did not win from the very beginning. 

Winnipeg Jets
James Carey Lauder, USATI

The Jets play in the NHL's smallest home arena, but what they lack in capacity they make up for in deafening noise. The Winnipeg White Out is one of the NHL postseason's great traditions and it helps to create an intimidating atmosphere for any team that has to make a trip there, whether it be in the middle of winter for a regular-season game or a playoff game in the spring. 

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