We pulled this one out of The Hockey Writers files to see what might have changed since it was first published two years ago. Let us know if you agree or if there should be any additions to the list.
Throughout history, the NHL and its teams have made their homes in arenas across North America.
Each barn is unique in its own way, while the fans that fill the seats bring seemingly endless levels of enthusiasm and passion.
In certain scenarios, a given arena and the fans that fill it may be so passionate that the emphatic, sometimes raucous noise they create has the ability to directly influence the outcome of a game.
In today’s NHL, many teams are fortunate to play at home in arenas and in front of crowds which bring an unwavering level of passion, as the energy exuded acts similar to an extra teammate, fueling the efforts of the players on the ice.
The atmosphere of an NHL arena undoubtedly has the ability to influence the game being played within it. This being said, let’s take a look at the top ten arena atmospheres in the NHL.
10. Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia Flyers
Fans of the Philadelphia Flyers are known to be among the most passionate in the NHL. So passionate in fact, that Flyers fans have become known as borderline volatile when it comes to their dislike of an opposing team in support of their own.
Similar to the playing style of the Flyers players throughout the years, fans in Philadelphia are die hard hockey fans and care deeply not only about the success of their team, but also the well-being of its players accordingly named the “city of brotherly love”.
The second home of many Philadelphia natives, the Wells Fargo Center can seat 19,500 fans in a single game. On the vast majority of game nights, every seat in the house is full with spirited Flyers fans eager to cheer on their team.
In fact, the Flyers rank fourth in the NHL this season in average attendance with 19,700 fans per game. Philadelphia also ranks sixth in the NHL in the percentage of capacity utilized at 101 percent! This means that the Flyers are averaging more fans at each home game than the Wells Fargo Center is supposed to accommodate.
A full house, the emotion of Flyers supporters and the desire to support their team makes the Wells Fargo Center and its fans one of the top hockey atmospheres in the NHL.
9. Verizon Center – Washington Capitals
Hockey in the nation’s capital is more popular than ever before, and fans of the Washington Capitals help take the atmosphere within the Verizon Center to the next level.
The Capitals moved into the now Verizon Center, nicknamed “The Phone Booth” in 1997. Since then, the arena has undergone a variety of changes, in particular, capacity as well as in design, such as customized red stanchions to reflect the team’s colors.
Prior to games, fans emphatically chant “rock the red”, while the entire arena is engulfed in the color.
Fans are so supportive in fact, that the Capitals are among the best in the league in terms of attendance. On average, a Capitals home game draws 19,500 fans (2015 stats). When contrasted with the arena’s capacity, Caps fans tend to fill 110.5 percent of the arena!
8. TD Garden – Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins fans, like all on this list, are diehard hockey fans. As a whole, they comprise one of the most enthusiastic and supportive groups of supporters in the hockey world.
Not only have Boston fans enjoyed the good, such as a Stanley Cup Championship in 2011, but they have also endured the bad, marked by the tragic events at the Boston Marathon in 2013. It is events such as these which have created a brotherhood between Bruins supporters, who come together to celebrate their team like one giant family.
It is with the same enthusiasm with which Bruins fans cheer on their team, which at times has been considered by some as over zealous and downright intense. However, it is this emotion which rocks TD Garden on game nights, producing one of the best atmospheres in the NHL.
In terms of desire to see games, Bruins fans are once again near the top, averaging 17,500 supporters per game while selling out the majority of home games.
7. Madison Square Garden – New York Rangers
New York residents are spoiled with a wealth of various, successful professional sports teams to support, and the New York Rangers are no exception.
Within one of the world’s most famous professional sports venues, New York fans can be found rocking Madison Square Garden, or “MSG” on Rangers game nights.
Home to 18,000 passionate fans, Rangers supporters have long cheered on the “blue shirts” and have even developed a long list of rituals throughout the team’s storied history. 1971 saw the emergence of “The Chief”, a die hard rangers fan who took supporting the team to the next level.
From 1971-1995, The Chief thrilled rangers fans, donning an extensive outfit completed by rangers face paint. He became the Rangers’ unofficial mascot, dancing his way into New Yorkers hearts while even providing post-game recaps on local radio.
On top of this, fans have come to enjoy the Rangers goal song which features three huge blasts from a New York City Fire Department Engine, and the occasional singing of the Neil Diamond classic, “Sweet Caroline”.
The enthusiasm of Rangers fans and the combination of rituals unique to New York City make Rangers games at MSG one of the prime hockey atmospheres in the NHL. As a result, it’s not at all surprising that each and every home game is a sellout.
6. Staples Center – Los Angeles Kings
Like New York, California is home to a plethora of professional sports teams, however, no California-based NHL team has enjoyed more success in their history than the Los Angeles Kings.
Two Stanley Cup championships in the past three seasons have certainly given Kings fans a reason to celebrate, not to mention a sense of pride given their proximity to state based rivals in San Jose and Anaheim.
With a capacity of over 18,000, the Staples Center often accommodates awesome crowds greater than the number of seats available, as this season the Kings have averaged 18,270 per game, which is 100.2 percent of the arena’s total capacity.
Known as one of the loudest buildings in the NHL, Kings’ crowds bring the noise every home game in support of their team, often motivated by the antics of their well-known mascot, Bailey. A 6-foot tall lion, Bailey is named in honor of Kings great Garnet “Ace” Bailey and wears number 72 to represent the average temperature in Los Angeles.
5. SAP Center at San Jose – San Jose Sharks
Similar to their inter-state rival the Los Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks and their fans combine to create a fantastic hockey atmosphere.
When playing at home in the SAP Center, creatively nicknamed the “Shark Tank”, the atmosphere is electric as well as unique. And after their run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season it has been taken up a few more notches.
First off, the Sharks remain one of the few teams in the league to enter the ice through a specially designed object, in this case, a sharks’ jaws alongside red eyes and smoke. If this sight doesn’t get fans pumped up, which it usually does, there’s mascot S.J Sharkie, whose entrance and enthusiasm on the ice before the game gets the crowd roaring.
On top of this, the Sharks feature the old school fan favorite, an organ. In terms of further atmosphere builders, the music for Jaws is played before each Sharks power play, while fans join in using their arms to resemble the chomping action of a Sharks jaws.
The smaller than average capacity at the SAP Center, 17,500, in no way diminishes the atmosphere of a San Jose home game, especially given the demand for tickets, as Sharks home games are sold out or are very close to on the majority of occasions.
4. Bell Centre – Montreal Canadiens
It comes as no surprise that the most storied and successful franchise in NHL history is also home to one of the greatest arena atmospheres in the NHL.
The experience of a Canadiens home game is like no other. Hockey history is plentiful, as are the fans. 21,200 on average pack into the Bell Centre, or “Le Centre Bell” to watch their team chase further hockey greatness.
As the only NHL team based in a largely french speaking province, many aspects of a Canadiens game are different, and in some cases better than the traditional NHL game. For instance, the Canadian national anthem is not only sung primarily in french, but with a powerfully distinct sense of pride.
Not only does vast hockey history and pride generate endless enthusiasm from Canadiens fans, but so too does Youppi!, the team mascot. Previously the mascot of the now-defunct Montreal Expos, Youppi! is a key figure of the Montreal Canadiens and has been thrilling and entertaining fans since 2005.
Further in terms the Canadiens’ unique atmosphere, it is common to hear the now famous “ole” chant ringing throughout the Bell Centre. The chant which is typically heard at soccer stadiums throughout Europe reflects the presence of the many European cultures present throughout Montreal and Quebec.
All in all, the atmosphere within the Bell Centre during a Montreal Canadiens game is spectacular, and certainly one of the best in the NHL.
3. Xcel Energy Center – Minnesota Wild
Based in the “State of Hockey”, the Minnesota Wild and its fans combine to provide one of the top three hockey atmospheres in the NHL.
As the NHL’s most northern American based team, the sport of hockey is arguably the most popular sport in the state of Minnesota. As a result, hockey fans in Minnesota are obsessed with the Wild and are among the most supportive and enthusiastic fans in the league.
Watch Wild fans erupt pre-game against the Chicago Blackhawks in last season’s Western Conference Semi-Final.
These heavily enthusiastic fans come out to support the Wild in huge numbers, on average nearly 19,000 per game night. These impressive numbers mean the Wild sell more tickets than the Xcel Energy Arena’s capacity on a nightly basis.
2. MTS Centre – Winnipeg Jets
The beginning of the 2011 NHL season saw the return of elite hockey to the province of Manitoba. Since its departure, hockey fans had long awaited the return of the NHL since the Jets left town for Phoenix in 1996. When Winnipeg got its wish, hockey fans throughout the province responded with an outpouring of tremendous support.
So tremendous in fact, that when the Winnipeg Jets began their season ticket drive, they met their goal of 13,000 tickets within mere minutes of the tickets going on sale. Two minutes in fact.
Inside the MTS Centre, these amazing, hockey-deprived fans have come together as one to produce one of the best hockey atmospheres in the NHL. Converted from an AHL rink, the MTS Centre holds a league low 15,000 fans, however, this low capacity doesn’t take away from the atmosphere in the arena, as Jets fans are among the loudest and emphatic in the league.
Not surprisingly, the Jets and their hockey crazy fans sell out the MTS Centre night in and night out.
1. United Center – Chicago Blackhawks
Coming in hot at number one is the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks have enjoyed tremendous success in recent history, quickly becoming one of the most popular teams in the entire NHL. Not only do the Blackhawks have tremendous fan support in their own rink, but also in many cities throughout North America.
In terms of in-arena atmosphere, the Blackhawks and their fans enjoy a fantastic show on game nights. Coupled with on-ice success, the fans packed into the United Center, on average 21,600 per night, enjoy a variety of aspects unique to hockey in Chicago.
The most notable of which is the music played during games. In particular, the United Center’s Allen Digital Organ. The organ and its sound took over a year to create and is based strictly on the famous Barton Organ found in the old Chicago Stadium. Too big and difficult to transport to the United Center, each sound was digitally recreated to provide fans with the authentic sound of the famous Chicago Stadium organ.
This new organ pumps energy into the sold out United Center crowds, fueling the “Madhouse on Madison” and its hockey-crazed fans.
With one of the biggest crowds on game nights, extensive hockey history, on ice success and in-arena entertainment, the Chicago Blackhawks and the United Center provide the best in-arena hockey atmosphere in the NHL.