Well, at least it's something.
Forbes.com (who apparently will take anything about value and put it into a list form) and Brand Keys have assembled rankings of the NHL's top fanbases.
1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. New York Rangers
3. Boston Bruins
4. San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues
5. Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers
What's notable about this is that four of these teams listed have won a Stanley Cup since 2008, and four have not. Brand loyalty - and let's face it, when it comes down to it, this is what it is - is what drives companies to profit. The ultimate level of profit, obviously, comes from the Stanley Cup and the years after a recent win, but teams are also making profit from consistent playoff appearances and established fan bases. It's not as much as it would be for a Cup run, but it's there.
Before anyone says it, no, I don't think that this takes away from any incentive owners have to build a quality team and take a shot for the Cup. Proof for that lies in the bottom five:
30. New York Islanders
29. Columbus Blue Jackets
28. Phoenix Coyotes and Winnipeg Jets
27. Buffalo Sabres
26. Tampa Bay Lightning
Number 28 is hysterical.
Anyway, this list wasn't compiled from "which market has the most fans who've followed the team for 40 years," but it was taken from metrics based on the following (from Forbes.com):
So while the final scores and game attendance tend to contribute more to loyalty for professional hockey, all of the emotionally-based, predictive drivers really have to be taken into account when measuring team loyalty. The four emotional drivers of fan loyalty look like this:
How well a team does but, and a bit more important for hockey than other Major League Sports. But also contributing, how exciting is their play?
How well they play as a team and do fans show up to root for the home team.
Are there players that are particularly respected and admired?
History and Tradition:
Is the game and the team part of fans’ and community’s rituals, institutions and beliefs?
I would say that the Blues do pretty well in these four areas. The Blues have very popular players locally, are entertaining to watch in the regular season, usually play very well as a team, and have been a long-standing part of the communiity.
The rankings don't seem to be based much on playoff success, though regular season records do help.