Grand Forks as #1 hockey city? No

Can you be the State of Hockey and not have the top “hockey city” in the country, Minnesota? Sure.

SmartAsset has released its annual rankings of hockey hotbeds and Grand Forks, N.D., comes in #1. Again.

Unlike the Twin Cities, people go to watch its college hockey team, SmartAsset says. Ninety-eight percent of the University of North Dakota’s arena is filled each night, translating to 20 percent of the Grand Forks population going to games, it says.

Grand Forks also has the eighth-highest quality of life.

But St Paul is no slouch in the survey, finishing second, the only National Hockey League city to crack the top 10.

Our data shows that the Minnesota Wild receive some of the strongest fan support in the country. Saint Paul ranks third in our score of fan intensity. The Wild also have more avid fans than other NHL teams. They can expect a packed stadium at games with the third-highest attendance rate in our study. The equivalent of 6.3% of the Saint Paul population shows up for the average game.

Saint Paul also has the 15th-highest quality of life score in our study. If you can’t make the game and need a place to watch, the city is one of the locations in our study that has a large population of dining and entertainment establishments. Another notable distinction: Saint Paul is one of the best cities in the U.S. for women in tech.

Mankato, finishing third, is the only other Minnesota city in the top 10.

There’s a flaw in the survey, according to the methodology, which stiffs St. Paul.

We did not include women’s college hockey teams in our analysis, because there was not enough data available. We excluded teams in the National Women’s Hockey League for the same reason, although we hope to include them in the future.

Right. That team from St. Paul won the league championship last weekend. Plenty of people showed up to watch.

Grand Forks’ days at the top of the list are numbered.

  • Gary F

    Marilyn Hagerty has been telling us Grand Forks is a great town for a long time now.

    Good to see the rest of the nation is catching on.

  • Mike Worcester

    And UND just a couple years ago eliminated its women’s varsity hockey program.

  • Rob

    Now, imagine if the Wild wasn’t such a heartbreak team; St. Paul might wind up in the #1 slot!

  • TBH

    I like to think I’m a rather avid sports fan, but I had no idea that the NWHL existed until I read this article. Thanks for pointing out the flaws of the study – I’m going to read up on the league and our local team.

    • Oddly enough, i finished a beer league game at the Tria rink right before the last day of tryouts for the Whitecaps so I stayed a bit to watch them practice.

      They are REALLY good, I only wish I could play like them for one game…

      • My wife and I learned of the NWHL this year. By the time we figured out when and where the games were, any of the games we could have attended were sold out! We’ll need to get our act together for the 2019/20 season I suppose.

        • JamieHX

          I heard or read somewhere that ALL of their games were sold out. I saw them on tv for a short time; they did look really impressive.

  • boB from WA

    I find it interesting that there is only one city in this list that is west of the geographical center of the US. I wonder if proximity to Boulder (UC) and Denver figured into Loveland’s passion of hockey.

  • Brian Simon

    I’m kinda surprised Duluth is so far down the list. Perhaps if the Lady Bulldogs were included?

  • KTFoley

    Maybe UND’s team fills the arena because it’s good, and also because there’s not much else to do?

    Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s team is in the NCAA Frozen Four. As Mike Worcester pointed out, UND doesn’t have a women’s team anymore. But women’s hockey, which fields 40 Division I teams this year and has held NCAA championships since 2001, counts for nothing.

    I won’t dis Grand Forks for that, but rather the people who published the list.

    Let’s peek at the significant difference between Minneapolis & St Paul’s measures in the Index column, which rolls together crime, restaurants, population, and who knows what else to make Minneapolis less attractive than Lewiston NY. Lewiston is a campus town where the average attendance is a whopping 46%.

    Wait, what?

    It’s the home of the Niagara Purple Eagles, who also shut down their women’s Division I team in 2012.

    Again, what?

    That whole scenario — Grand Forks, Lewiston, the difference between the Twin Cities — would make a ton of sense if I took a poll amongst my (male) bar buddies and then worked backward to construct some data that justified their answers.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    I think the claim to being the State of Hockey still works. On that list there are 5 MN locations, MI is next with 4 and PA has 3. (I didn’t look to closely but I don’t think there were any others at 3). So while Grand Forks might be Hockey City, Minnesota is still the State of Hockey. The five cities are scattered about the state and has been pointed out Women’s Hockey (collegiate or pro) isn’t included and don’t forget how many people packed the X a couple of weeks ago for the Boys State Tournament or a couple of weeks earlier for the Girls State Tournament.