Why isn't hockey more popular in the south?

Why isn’t hockey popular in the south?

Not enough ice.

What do you consider the South? The Nashville Predators have done quite well.

  • Not a traditional participation sport among youth in much of the South (though that’s probably changed a bit in the past few decades)

  • Until the last 20 years, not many pro or college teams in the South

While, yes, the Predators may be doing all right, in other southern markets, the NHL has struggled to gain traction, including Atlanta (which has now lost two NHL teams) and Phoenix (which has been a financial quagmire for the league for years).

The NHL intentionally pursued a strategy of attempting to expand its fan base in the southern U.S. (and, in the eyes of many fans, at the expense of its traditional fan base in the northern U.S., and, particularly, Canada), with decidedly mixed results. In some cases (such as in Florida and Arizona), they hoped to build fan bases for the local teams out of retirees from the North, but (anecdotally, at least) many of those fans remained loyal to the teams which they’d followed up North.

Honestly I’m sure that’s the case.

You don’t have ponds freezing over in the winter, and kids don’t grow up ice skating, so there’s no interest in ice skating-related activities.

Similarly, not too popular in the SF Bay Area, Kristi Namaguchi not withstanding.

Building an ice rink iv expensive. It’s a risk to build them in places no one skates because there’s no frozen ponds or lakes 1/2 the year.

What position did she play?

Seriously, the game seems fine in Las Vegas, Tampa,
Los Angeles, Dallas, San Jose, Nashville, Columbus and Anaheim.

Winning records draw fans and some southern teams haven’t been doing too well. The New York Islanders attendance has been abysmal, although being somewhat north.

Is it having trouble in North Carolina?? There’s a LOT of youth hockey played here in Charlotte; it was hard to find ice time for our curling club when we were stuck in local arenas.

The Hurricanes have been bottom 5 in attendance for the past five years, and the games that do sell the most are against the northeastern teams that local transplants hail from. Heck, both the Charlotte Knights and the Durham Bulls put more butts in seats than the Hurricanes last year.

Not making the playoffs since 2009 doesn’t help, but even if there’s enough local kids playing on youth teams, hockey isn’t big here like it is up north. I don’t know about Charlotte, but up here, high schools don’t have teams, and no certainly college around here fields a team. I think that lack of a pipeline for players to progress reduces interest a lot.


I’m a curler, and there aren’t many curling clubs in the hotter regions for the same reason. Keeping a rink’s worth of area cold enough for ice can get quite expensive.

Most curling clubs shut down during the summer months for the same reason.

Well, when you steal your marketing strategy from the movie Slap Shot, you can’t really expect much.

Dallas is a bit up and down depending how the team is doing.

Every sports market’s different and some ownership groups are better than others; Nashville does very well, but there is no local reason why it should have done well while Atlanta was a disaster. The problem with Atlanta was that the ownership screwed the franchise up, while in Nashville the ownership has run a model franchise.

Look, never mind ice. The reason hockey is on average stronger in northern cities is simply that there is a history of hockey there. It’s wildly strong in Canada because in Canada hockey is an integral part of the sporting history of the country and the national self-image. It’s very strong in places like Detroit, Minnesota and New York because those places have a history of professional and elite amateur hockey that goes back eons.

But that said, being a northern city does not guarantee NHL success. Some northern cities with other pro sports teams have NEVER had an NHL team, like Seattle (may soon get one) or Milwaukee, and teams have failed in Quebec, Winnipeg, Cleveland, Minnesota, and a few others I’m sure I am forgetting, while as pointed out the NHL has done well in places in San Jose and Tampa, which had little hockey history prior to the team arriving.

Hurricanes fan here. Not making the playoffs really drove attendance down. They were doing OK from 2006 to 2010 with ticket sales and the old owner was pretty cheap. The new owner is spending to make the team better hopefully that will show in the W column.

TBF the attendance in Detroit (the self-branded “Hockeytown”) has been pretty dismal the past two seasons, almost entirely because the team is starting a long-overdue rebuild and haven’t been very good.

very few places in any sport have good crowds with bad teams. Toronto and Montreal in NHL have good crowds no matter their records but those are 2 pretty rare cases.

If I had to rank the fandom around here, I’d put the Stars above FC Dallas, but below the Mavericks in terms of fans (the full ranking would be Cowboys, Rangers, Mavs, Stars, FC Dallas, with the Rangers and Mavs switching depending on which is relatively better at the moment)

So better than soccer, but worse than basketball.

Here’s another anecdotal thing (and I admit it’s just anecdote, so my have no bearing.) Hockey just doesn’t feel ‘right’ when the weather is nice. I just went to a Pens pre-season game on Saturday and it was fun, enjoyed myself. The Pens tore up and Crosby was playing in the preseason, so that’s awesome. The problem was that you went into PPG and it was 70 degrees and sunny and came out and it was still warm and sunny and it really just didn’t feel ‘right.’ Being hit with warm air when you walk out of an arena is just wrong somehow. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

The Red Wings had the fourth highest average attendance in the NHL last year. They were reported at one hundred percent capacity.

It is possible you went to games and saw empty seats, but those seats were sold. That’s the sign of a very, very healthy and enthusiastic fan base; they may not show for a loser but the demand is so high they already bought the tickets.

Emphasis mine.

This. I was too young to understand why the Flames skedaddled, but the Thrashers had very good support, even among native Southerners. You never saw as many tee shirts, hats and jerseys as you did for the Braves or the Falcons, but Thrashers gear was about as prevalent as Hawks paraphernalia. It was never hard to buy a ticket, but most games seemed to be fairly full, and as loud as any other sporting event I’d seen. (In their second season, I was dating a native-born Atlantan who was a passionate Thrashers fan, who had gotten dressed up in formal wear to attend the team’s first ever game, so I saw a good few games with her.)

The Thrashers’ problem was a toxic, nasty, public pissing match between the members of their ownership group. They hired a general manager who, when he finally left, could only find work as a scout for the Penguins, spent millions of dollars suing each other, did not hide at all their desire to sell the team, and were only interested in their other franchise, the Hawks, and the arena rights to Phillips Arena. They couldn’t or wouldn’t spend the money to keep good players, (and Atlanta had some good ones: Ilya Kovulchuk, Dany Heatly, Marian Hossa), and the team only made the playoffs one year of the fourteen they were in Atlanta.

Heritage teams, in other words, that have tradition to fall back on when the team isn’t very good. The Cubs were like that when I lived in Chicago, but people still went to games because, well, the Cubbies, and Wrigley Field. I suspect the Yankees and the Red Sox can also get away with that for similar reasons.