The Philadelphia Flyers are widely recognized as having one of best, if not the best, fans in all of hockey. That’s not hard to believe, particularly when you hear or read the passion and loyalty that Flyers fans exude on blogs, message boards, and talk-radio.
However, is Pittsburgh actually a better hockey town than the home of our beloved Broad Street Bullies? That’s what some Pittsburgh friends of mine recently boasted. If so, that would hurt. We know Philly is a better baseball town. And, if Pittsburgh is a better football town, that’s okay, too given the history of the Steelers franchise. But hockey?
To begin here are some basic population numbers for the respective metropolitan areas:
|City||Metropolitan Area Population|
Philadelphia is 253% larger in population than Pittsburgh. Again, this is metropolitan populations, not city limits, so the entire Delaware Valley is included. Keep these numbers in mind as we compare the two cities hockey attendance, TV ratings, jersey sales, Twitter and Facebook activity.
Let’s look at the attendance of the two franchises. The Penguins play in the Consol Energy Center, which has a hockey capacity of 18,647. The Flyers’s Wells Fargo Center has a hockey capacity of 19,750. [both figures according to wikipedia]
Due to the capacity limits, we know that the Flyers should have a higher attendance for hockey, which they do according to ESPN.com. However, as you can see in the table below, the Penguins average capacity per game is slightly higher than that of the Flyers, 101.4% to 101.1%
Take that stat for what it’s worth. Perhaps a greater indicator would be television ratings.
NHL SEASON OPENER TELEVISION RATINGS:
The most accessible ratings available are for the NHL 2013 Season Opener. Here are the overnight ratings for the NBC 2013 NHL Regular Season debut:
TOP FIVE MARKETS (Rating/Share)
That rating number, as far I know, represents the % of homes with a TV that tuned into a program. So, 19.4% of all Pittsburgh homes with a television watched the Penguins/Flyers match-up, compared to 7.8% of Philadelphia homes. The share number represents the % of televisions turned on. So, 38% of all Pittsburgh televisions turned on were tuned into the Opener, while only 16% of Philadelphia’s.
A good argument that Philly is a better hockey town is that two of the top ten selling jerseys in 2013 were that of Flyers (Giroux #1, Jagr #10). However, due to the sheer population difference, Philadelphia should be selling far more jerseys, sweaters.
This means that a metropolitan 40% the size of Philadelphia has 135% more Twitter followers.
Heart-broken and dejected about the numbers I’ve discovered, I can’t bear to generate any more stats on this issue. How can this be?
Maybe the lack of an NBA team creates more fan interest because there isn’t another professional sports team between football and baseball season. As a resident of a four-sport city, I need to take that shot.
Maybe Pittsburgh is younger and that’s why they have such a larger online fan presence. Maybe the Penguins social media marketing department is simply better than the the Flyers’. However, neither of these two reasons would explain that insane television ratings for Penguins hockey.
Maybe its because there is nothing in the state of Pennsylvania from Harrisburg to the Pennsylvania border with Ohio. Perhaps the Penguins are the team of Pittsburgh and Altoona, Johnstown, Erie, and maybe even parts of West Virginia.
Maybe, just maybe, Pittsburgh is a better hockey town. Did I just type that? God, I hope not.