Big Rapids rated No. 25 in hockey towns

BIG RAPIDS — Hockey may not be the most popular sport in America, but it enjoys a strong fan base.

Its following is also growing. SmartAsset’s fifth annual study on the 2019 best hockey towns in the America has Big Rapids rated No. 25 compared to No. 19 last year.

Since SmartAsset, a research company, did its last study, the National Hockey League has even added a new team, the Golden Knights in Las Vegas. That’s the first new team to join the NHL in nearly two decades. Fans also go wild for the other professional leagues in the U.S. and for Division I college hockey.

College hockey has a strong following. NCAA hockey teams account for seven of the top 10, and 19 of the top 25, cities in their rankings. The only city with an NHL team to claim a top-10 spot was St. Paul, Minnesota (the Minnesota Wild).

Nine of the top 10 cities are in either the Northeast or the upper Midwest of the U.S. Minnesota claims five spots in the top 20. The only southern state in the top 25, ranking 15th, is Nashville, Tennessee.

Eight of last year’s top 10 cities also ranked in the top 10 this year. The two cities to fall from the top 10 were Ann Arbor, which is now 14th, and Cambridge, Mass., which is now 21st.

To find the best hockey towns of 2019, SmartAsset pulled data for 115 cities and towns that had a hockey team in either the National Hockey League, the NCAA Division I men’s hockey league, the East Coast Hockey League or the American Hockey League. It ranked all 115 cities across nine total metrics. The metrics fell into one of two categories: fan intensity and quality of life.

Grand Forks once again claims the title as America’s best hockey town. This is the fifth year in a row that Grand Forks has topped the rankings. Fighting Hawks fans are as dedicated as ever, filling about 98 percent of the stadium’s seats for the average game. That translates to more than 20 percent of Grand Forks’ total population attending games.

The Ralph Engelstad Arena, which is where the Fighting Hawks play, is a state-of-the-art facility that some have called the “Taj Mahal of hockey.” According to the arena, all concourses have granite floors, all seats are made of leather and there are nearly 50 luxury suites.

Other cities ranked in the top 25, in order, and the home team are:

Saint Paul, Minn. (Minnesota Wild), Mankato, Minn. (Minnesota State University Mavericks), Hanover, New Hampshire (Dartmouth College Big Green), State College, Penn. (Penn State University Nittany Lions), Hershey, Penn. (Hershey Bears), Burlington, Vermont (University of Vermont Catamounts), North Andover, Mass. (Merrimack College Warriors), Loveland, Col. (Colorado Eagles), Houghton (Michigan Technological University Huskies, Marquette (Northern Michigan Wildcats), Durham, NH (UN Wildcats), Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Penguins), Nashville (Nashville Predators), Saint Cloud (St. Cloud Huskies), Duluth, Minn. (Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs), Lewiston, N.Y. (Niagara Purple Eagles), Princeton, N.J. (Princeton Tigers), Minnesota, Minn. (Minnesota Golden Gophers), Camridge, Mass., (Harvard Crimson), Moline, Ill. (Quad City Mallards), Orono, ME (Maine Black Bears), Madison, Wis., (Wisconsin Badgers), and Big Rapids (Ferris State Bulldogs).



Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at

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