Best NHL city: Buffalo
August 2, 2007
Here's how good the hockey fans are in Buffalo: While TV ratings in the rest of the U.S. pushed to reach numbers posted by drunken drivers, the citizens of this mid-market media area were watching the Stanley Cup finals at five times the national rating. And the Sabres weren't even in the finals.
Such is the passion for pucks in greater Buffalo. These fans even surpassed the Game 5 rating in the L.A. market, where the Ducks were winning the Cup.
There's no Disney Land in Buffalo; Niagara, Ontario, is nice but you can only see Ripley's so many time. There's no surf in Buffalo; the closest thing is where the Niagara River goes downhill real fast. Goat Island will never be confused with Long Beach.
So, OK, there aren't the distractions in Buffalo there are in Anaheim, where the Cup landed. Other than hockey, the only thing these cities have in common is James Cameron. The Titanic man is from an Ontario burg on the north shore of the Niagara. And although both cities have hockey, Buffalo's passion for it is unsurpassed. Anywhere.
America's Best Sports City, NHL category, even loves its team when it loses. Example: Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, won by the Senators to eliminate the Sabres, drew a 28.4 rating for NBC. And games 1-4, all on Versus, drew ratings between 21.9 and 27.6.
Now chew on this: NBC's three games in the finals had a rating of ... 1.6. Repeat: 1.6.
Anomaly? Not considering Buffalo's rating for the All-Star Game was 7.1, while the next-best market number was Pittsburgh's 2.8.
If the NHL posted numbers one-tenth as good across the U.S. as it does in Buffalo it would be giddy. Gary Bettman would Riverdance from Erie to Ontario.
And these folks aren't staying home, either. Every Sabres home game last season was a sellout. That's 18,690 for 41 nights at HSBC Center. And of course, with Cup hopes sky-high, every playoff game was a sellout, too.
There was such demand for the playoffs, Time Warner Cable added Versus HD to its lineup.
'Nuff said. Buffalo, you rule.
Sorry KC fans, we should have stayed with the Royals and Chiefs, this stadium might well end up being a flop.