South of the border, however, hockey just isn’t as coveted as it is in Canada. That being said, the sport is succeeding in some odd places south of the border, especially out on the west coast.
Places like Nashville, San Jose, Phoenix, Anaheim or Los Angeles seem like unlikely areas for hockey success. Despite the adversity that many of these hockey teams have faced, all five cities have had various degrees of success.
So, why are these unsuspecting hockey markets having success? For starters consistency, winning games and making the postseason are all major factors.
The Nashville Predators are a great example. The Predators made the postseason every season but two (2008-09 and 2012-13) since the 2004-05 lockout and have posted impressive point totals of 106 (2005-06), 110 (2006-07), and 104 (2011-12).
The Predators’ success on the ice has helped hockey grow immensely throughout Nashville, as well as throughout other southern states.
The San Jose Sharks’ success is comparable to the Predators’. The Sharks are a perennial postseason contender and while they have yet to win hockey’s Holy Grail, they have certainly come close.
In San Jose, the Sharks’ success has helped junior hockey grow in the area. In fact, many of the alumni of the San Jose Junior Sharks are finding success in NCAA college hockey.
While the Phoenix Coyotes went through an unfortunate ownership situation, they did not let it impact their play on the ice. The team won their first Pacific Division title in franchise history in the 2011-12 season while also getting past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in team history in getting to the Western Conference Finals.
Lastly, we have the American team that really started it all, the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings success really kicked off when “the Great One”, Wayne Gretzky, was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Kings in 1988.
As soon as Gretzky arrived at the Sun Belt, California started to look at hockey in a much different way. Hockey became a sport that was taken up by young people not only have fun in, but to have success in as well.
Chris Peters, author of the United States of Hockey Blog, says the popularity of hockey in California is staggering.
"Since 1990-91, California’s hockey-playing population has grown by a staggering 361.8 percent. As of 2010-11, there were 22,305 USA Hockey-registered players, the highest total in the history of California hockey. That number also gives California the seventh-highest hockey-playing population in the United States, trailing traditional hockey hotbeds of Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Illinois."
The Anaheim Ducks have also had a ton of success since joining the league in the 1993-94 season. The team has appeared in two Stanley Cup Finals, won the Cup in 2007 and as of this writing, are the best team in the entire NHL.
The Ducks have been one of the league's more consistent teams over the last several seasons. They have made the playoffs on a consistent basis, have finished in the top 10 in the league in points and have shown the rest of the NHL that they are a franchise to be reckoned with.
When the Kings won their first Cup in franchise history in 2012, Peters says the popularity of the game will only continue to grow in California.
"For hockey fans that have been with the Kings for years and years, get ready for a lot of new people pretending they know what L.A. Kings hockey is all about. Bandwagon fans can be annoying for the die-hards that have been through the thick and thin and the Burger King jerseys, but it is important to welcome these bandwagon new fans. Today’s bandwagon fans are tomorrow’s die-hards and quite possibly tomorrow’s youth and adult hockey players and hockey moms and dads."
With the way hockey is portrayed these days, the game can use all of the bandwagon and non-traditional fans it can to help continue to grow the game of hockey in unlikely places.