Buffalo the Nation's Hockey Capital, Say What?

An article released by Ben Cohen and Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal proclaimed our beloved city, Buffalo, N.Y., as the nation’s hub of hockey and capital of the NHL. Before you go filling your hearts with the Buffalo pride and express the “Buffalove” that continuously ranks Buffalo sports fans at the top of every poll, hold your emotions back until you truly analyze the claims made by the authors of this article. Especially if you want to avoid an all-too-characteristic Buffalo let down.

Now I wasn’t truly aware of this report until I had a few people send me the link to the story on my phone and computer. Buffalo being proclaimed in such high regards, especially with all of the improvements around First Niagara Center, would make for a great story on any Buffalo related news outlet so I was quite surprised when I saw little to no coverage about the article. Taking some time to see if anything would develop in regards to discussion of the article, today is the first time I thoroughly read through the claims to determine the true worth of the title our city has been given.

Titled: “The College Basketball Capital of the World”
Because I lost the link to the article, locating it was quite difficult, especially when I kept entering “Buffalo top NHL city” in a keyword search. Once I did find the article, I instantly became skeptical because of the title; “The College Basketball Capital of the World”. Hmm, an article with a title completely unrelated to the sport I was looking for. In fact, I chuckled a little bit thinking about the competition both these winter sports have to pull in viewers.

Knowing the article would primarily be focused on basketball, I instantly hit “CTRL+F” and entered Buffalo to cut the basketball talk out. Much respect to basketball fans, but I grew up in a hockey house and most likely couldn’t name five basketball teams if asked as a million dollar question.

Given the title, I was also expecting to see claims related to the world’s sports capitals. 

"Buffalo, N.Y., located about two hours south of Toronto, ON being claimed as the world’s hockey capital," I thought as I read the title.  

No way. Maybe the authors should have swapped the main title with the sub-title. I know the title is a way to gain reader attention, but don't get my hopes up even before reading the article, I'm a Buffalo sports fan. And if the title wasn't a red flag to readers, then the content most definitely should have raised a brow.

“…---just like Buffalo, N.Y., is the hub of hockey…” (plus a picture of Pat Kaleta)
That’s all she wrote, seriously. No mention of the TV ratings, box office numbers, or the fan population. That one line of text, eight words long, is the only thing claiming Buffalo, NY as the nation’s hub of hockey. Now I put nation in italics because it is quite misleading from what I read in the title of the article. .

Upon further inspection, the only numbers behind their claims were based off “a Wall Street Journal analysis” (according to the text in the flashy infographic before the main body of the article's text). Proposing these kind of claims, especially when referring to the hockey faithful that make up Buffalo, one would think there would be some numbers for us to boast about. Nothing. The only thing we have to hold onto from the claims of the Nickel City as the nation’s hub of hockey, according to this article, is the short and somewhat misleading compilation of words, plus a picture of Patrick Kaleta handing out fist bumps with fans at the VIP Ropeline.

Patrick Kaleta (36) gives fans some fist bumps in what the Wall Street Journal has proposed as the hockey epicenter of the U.S (Buffalo, NY).  Getty Images

Patrick Kaleta (36) gives fans some fist bumps in what the Wall Street Journal has proposed as the hockey epicenter of the U.S (Buffalo, NY). 

Getty Images

Finding truth in the past and future
In no way am I trying to bash what these authors have to say. I just find it hard to believe. Digging through the hockey ratings archives, it was pretty difficult to find my own numbers to somewhat back their claims. What I did find however, was an article posted in the The Buffalo News about the national ratings for the 2014 Winter Classic in which the Detroit Red Wings took on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Granted a majority of the viewers were most likely in Canada and were not included in the national ratings (Maple Leafs fans), Buffalo did come in second on the ratings, one spot behind the Motor City.

Comparatively speaking though, Buffalo is a much smaller U.S. hockey market in comparison to cities like Detroit, Boston, and Chicago. Putting numbers aside though, the fact that Buffalo was even referred to as the nation’s hockey hub in a national publication is a sure sign that the moves made by the city and organization to make Buffalo a hockey heaven are spinning a new perspective on what the combination of Buffalo and hockey mean to the nation as a whole. With the 2016 NHL Draft coming to Buffalo, I will not be surprised if Buffalo quickly transforms into a much larger market for NHL fans. The dumpster fire in the Maple Leafs organization could also expedite the process.