Home-ice advantage is often overrated. At the end of the day, the cream of the crop will always rise, no matter how loud, wild or relentless a crowd can be on any given night.
But there's no denying that as an opposing player, stepping out on the ice to the sound of tens of thousands of rowdy fans simultaneously hissing at you while making the ground shake as the home team steps out on the ice can shake a psyche and rattle even the most stable athletes to their core.
Over the years, several NHL fanbases have established themselves as clear-cut heavy hitters when it comes to "bringing the noise" on game day. The fans you'll find on this list are often referred to by opposing players and coaches as "passionate" - but if they could really express their true thoughts, they would probably use words like "insane" or "bat-s**t crazy."
There's nothing quite as sweet as going into a rival's building and quieting a raucous crowd, but there's nothing quite as intimidating and demoralizing as having the chants of an opponent's fans ringing in your ears, with the echoes still bouncing around your head hours after the final siren. Not many fanbases can have that kind of effect - and not that many can do so while raising decibel levels the way the way they do it in these arenas.
10 Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings fanbase falls into the category of those who are loud because they've had a lot of practice at it. The Wings haven't missed the playoffs in just over two decades, and with a bit of retooling they might be able to keep that streak going for awhile longer. Dubbed Hockeytown, USA, Detroit has the ability to blow the roof off of Joe Louis Arena at any given moment - and then there's the issue of dodging octopuses while on the ice.
9 San Jose Sharks
Surprised? You shouldn't be. Even though San Jose doesn't come to mind as a "hockey city," those Californians sure know how to rock a building when they want to. Between the Shark head and the antics of their mascot, S.J. Sharkie, there's plenty of reasons to be fired up at a San Jose home game - not to mention the fact that for the most part the team has been extremely good at home (and overall) over the past decade.
8 Calgary Flames
The name "Saddledome" is the kind of name for a place you would expect to be loud. Canadian cities, across the board, are almost excessively passionate about their hockey teams, and Flames supporters are no different. Loud, raucous and intimately in love with their team, Flames fans are able to literally light a fire under their boys while striking a bit of fear into the hearts of their opponents.
7 Boston Bruins
Bruins fans are arguably the wildest of the American crop. They pahk the cah and head on over to the Gahden for a night of truculence, domination and some good ol' fashion rough-and-tumble puck. Bruins fans are some of the few that can strike real fear into the heart of not only the opposing players on the ice, but also the fanbases of their opponents - you don't go into Boston with a Habs jersey unless you're in a big group of people who can have your back once things start to get a little rowdy.
6 Philadelphia Flyers
Bruins fans might disagree - and be disgusted - by the Philly faithful being ranked ahead of the Bruins' diehards, but if Bruins fans are "rowdy," there probably isn't a word for what Flyers fans are able to elevate too. The City of Brotherly Love is known for being the exact opposite of their moniker - "unbrotherly" and generally unloving to "sports outsiders." However, when it comes to their own, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more passionate fan-base. They'll be tough on you, but you can call it "tough love," the kind of love a father might give you because he just wants you to succeed and do well.
Although your father might not go as far as to break through the penalty box glass to fight Tie Domi.
5 Washington Capitals
For years, the Capitals had a fairly intimidating eagle strewn across the crest of their jerseys, a logo that did not entirely capture the essence of the team name, but was generally understood nonetheless. The Caps re-branded themselves several years back, with a fresh version of their retro jerseys - and suddenly became one of the more intimidating teams in the league.
Sure, it helps when you can throw Alex Ovechkin out on the ice for 25 minutes a game, but the general aura surrounding the team has changed ever since the Capitals went red. While the improved on-ice product is huge, the "Rock the Red" motto has become synonymous with the nation's capital, and the Washington, D.C. fanbase has embraced it fully. Caps fans have proven that they know how to party, make a ton of noise and instill fear in the hearts of their opponents.
Of course, there's also the matter of the incredibly annoying goal horn the Caps brass has signed off on for years - which I suppose is a good thing, because it's already bad enough to hear an opponent's goal horn go off. Why not make it ear-splitting awful?
4 Minnesota Wild
If Detroit, Michigan is "Hockeytown U.S.A." then Minnesota is far and away "The State of Hockey."
Minny is as close as it gets to a hockey factory in America. Some of the league's best, including former greats Phil Housley and Dave Christian, and current stars Zach Parise and David Backes, have come out of Minnesota. While the Wild are only entering their 15th season this year, they've given fans plenty of reason to rally behind the franchise over the years.
But besides the fact that the team is up and coming and loaded with talent, there's the simple matter of Minnesotans loving hockey - and that translates to the atmosphere you'll find at Xcel Energy Center, which is practically unparalleled across the league. Wild fans, simply put, know how to get wild.
3 Winnipeg Jets
No one was surprised that the excitement level in Winnipeg for the return of the Jets was at a level that no team around the league had ever seen before - but the atmosphere they've managed to not only create but sustain over the past few years is nothing short of remarkable.
The MTS Centre is far and away the smallest arena in the NHL, holding just over 15,000 fans, but during any given game night, the atmosphere in the arena makes you think you're packed in with double that amount of people. To say Manitobans are happy about getting their franchise back is quite the understatement, and they're doing literally everything they can to make sure that they don't ever have to go through the pain of losing them again. Packed to the brim every night, the atmosphere at MTS is unique and unquestionably one of the best in all of sports - and it only got better during the Jets 2.0 first crack at playoff hockey this past spring.
2 Montreal Canadiens
You hear it from Habs players (past and present) all the time: there's no harder place to lose, but there's no greater place to win.
Habs fans are as fickle as they come, but when they're happy and cheering on a successful version of Les Glorieux, there's not a greater fan-base in the NHL. While the Bell Centre has yet to fully recapture the aura and glory of the old Forum, it still gets extremely loud, extremely consistently. The Habs have sold out every game for the past decade-plus, although the streak officially ended when a seat was left empty for the late Mr. Jean Béliveau following his passing mid-season.
The league's largest capacity combined with some of the most passionate and invested fans in the league make for an incredible atmosphere at the Bell Centre - not to mention the fact that, with no disrespect to the CFL's Montreal Alouettes and MLS' Montreal Impact, the Canadiens are far and away the city's number one team, and it's not even close. There's a reason the Habs can market the slogan "The City is Hockey" and get away with it - because it's true.
1 Chicago Blackhawks
Anytime you can associate the word "madhouse" to your arena or stadium, you know some incredibly wild stuff is going on in that building.
When the Blackhawks were a cellar-dwelling joke of a franchise during the early 2000s, they were bad in all senses - and that included engaging their fan-base. Seats were empty, tickets went unsold - the games weren't even shown on television. When the rebuild officially began, it was not just a matter of rebuilding the product on the ice, but off it as well.
Fast-forward nearly a decade. The Hawks are practically an NHL dynasty, boast some of the game's top stars, and are four wins away from hoisting their third Stanley Cup in six years. All of that, plus the Madhouse on Madison is finally hopping again.
The Hawks have meshed a successful team with a hockey-crazed fan-base that has gotten a taste of victory and is now craving more. A legendary sports town in the midst of yet another dynasty has taken full advantage of a fantastic facility and crafty in-arena entertainment to turn a middling group of followers into what has ultimately become the loudest, most passionate and most inspiring fan-base in the NHL.
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