Here’s 5 Cities Where Hockey Fans Can Hang Their Skates
Ice hockey is a uniquely regional sport. Whereas most sports enjoy a relatively even distribution of their fans across the country, ice hockey fans are concentrated in just a few cities. Or, more accurately, just one part of the country. The northeastern U.S. (and southeastern Canada) is the epicenter for ice hockey and its biggest fans. The region is home to the “Original Six” – six teams that comprised the NHL from 1942 to 1967 – and still boasts the best teams, talent, and hockey culture in the country.
If you’re already sharpening your skates and waxing your hockey stick this year, consider these five cities where you’ll be right at home with other ice hockey fanatics.
I’ve already written about why Minneapolis is one of the best cities in the U.S. for snow lovers, but it’s also one of the best cities around if you’re a hockey fan. Maybe the city doesn’t enjoy the same fine professional hockey tradition as other cities on this list – the Minnesota Wild play in St. Paul and has only one division championship to their name – but for people who just want to get out on the ice, this Twin City is perfect.
The Minneapolis Storm Youth Hockey organization has been around since 1913 and has over 800 players. And when temperatures drop, Minneapolis sports outdoor rinks in 24 parks around the city. Perhaps Minneapolis’ coolest hockey offering, however, is the annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships held on Lake Nokomis, smack dab in the middle of the city.
What else needs to be said about a city that actually trademarked the name “Hockeytown?” Okay, it was actually Detroit’s NHL team, the Red Wings, that trademarked the name, but you get the idea. Detroit loves its hockey – as a member of the Original Six, the team has the most Stanley Cup wins of any American team.
Beyond the pros, Detroit provides locals with a slew of skating clubs, youth hockey associations, and adult hockey leagues to choose from. High school ice hockey is huge in Michigan, so even if you can’t make it to a Red Wings game, there’s always a local team to root for.
The Windy City might not be the first place you think when you think ice hockey, but the Chicago Blackhawks are another Original Six team and hockey runs in the city’s veins. While the city’s other pro teams get a lot of attention, the Hawks’ recent success has led to a boom in ice hockey’s popularity – both professional and amateur.
Chicago has worked hard in recent years to secure more high profile hockey events, including last year’s Frozen Four and this year’s NHL Draft. The city also sports a strong youth hockey program – the Chicago Steel are the defending junior hockey national champs.
Although Pittsburgh’s NHL team, the Penguins, was formed during the 1967 NHL Expansion, the city’s pro hockey history stretches back more than a century. In fact, some people consider Pittsburgh the birthplace of professional hockey. The Penguins have one of the strongest fan bases in the NHL, which has been bolstered recently by two back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017, bringing their total championships to 5.
And the Penguins have rewarded their fans with more than a few big trophies. The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation provides programs where physically challenged individuals, children and adults with developmental disabilities, and low-income youth can all enjoy and learn about the game.
What if you love hockey but don’t want to relocate to the frigid Northeast? Fans of the San Jose Sharks are proof positive that just because you love ice hockey doesn’t mean you need to love being cold. Founded in 1991, the Sharks have thrived in their California hometown, bringing home six division titles and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance last year.
The team’s popularity in San Jose has led to a surge in ice hockey programs for both kids and adults – the Sharks run the biggest amateur hockey league west of the Mississippi. So if you like hockey, but only want to be cold when you’re in the rink, San Jose may be just right for you.