I once sat next to John Buccigross at a Quinnipiac hockey game. Given that QU is in Connecticut, just 30 minutes from Bristol where ESPN is headquartered, it's pretty much the only competitive hockey close to ESPN. So, Bucci brought his sons to the game. I didn't want to talk to him during the game because I was afraid of bothering him (regretable, I should've at least said hi, but whatever), but I could tell that he has a passion for hockey. It comes out in his weekly column on ESPN.com, and in this week's column, it's clear he feels Flyers fans share that same passion.
In terms of passion and priorities, no American city can probably match any of the six Canadian cities. But, as I've written in this space many times, I believe Philadelphia is the premier hockey city in the United States in terms of the personality of its fan base. I think it's the most loyal, passionate and supportive. A big reason for this is that the Flyers are a five-star organization in terms of how they treat players and chairman Ed Snider's desire and passion to win.
The Flyers had a bad stretch in the early '90s, but other than that, they have always had good and spirited teams. It's just a very interesting vibe when you see a Flyers game in person. You can feel the fans' presence make its way down to the ice.
St. Paul, Minn., certainly would be among the top cities because it is the epicenter of hockey passion in the United States. Nowhere is the culture of hockey participation greater than Minnesota. It is practically Canadian in that regard. From an NHL fan standpoint, fans there have bought every ticket to every Wild game despite not having a face of the franchise and playing a style that is, well, pretty boring. But I'm gonna give Philly the nod because the Flyers have been around longer and their history has been so compelling and interesting.