As hockey leagues across the country closed their doors on the 2019-20 season now felt like a good time to reflect on some of the best teams from around the country. With competitive hockey having been played in 49 of the 50 United States this past season lets take a look at the best teams from each state. Keep in mind this is solely based on the 2019-20 season and where teams finished in the standings.
First up are the Hartford Wolf Pack in Connecticut, who finished the season ahead of their in-state rivals, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. There's been a long tradition of AHL hockey in Rhode Island and the Providence Bruins have continued that. The Delaware Thunder didn't have the chance to complete their first season in the Fed (FPHL), but they did bring pro hockey to the Blue Hen State. The ECHL's Maine Mariners brought pro hockey back to Portland after the Pirates left town in 2016. As disappointing as the Devils have been this season they are New Jersey's only NHL team. When the NHL put the season on pause in March the Islanders were the best team in New York, one point ahead of the Rangers with two games in hand. The Flyers and the Penguins each played the same amount of games when the virus interrupted the season with Philadelphia three points ahead of Pittsburgh. The University of Vermont Catamounts are the lone Division I NCAA team in a state that has no pro hockey. New Hampshire is another state without pro hockey as the UNH Wildcats edged out Dartmouth with a better overall season to earn state bragging rights. Rounding out the Northeast are the Washington Capitals who have called the District of Columbia home since they moved downtown in 1997. After the Caps left the suburbs of Maryland, the highest level of hockey in Maryland comes from the Maryland Black Bears of the NAHL. Their high number of NCAA DI commitments gives them the slight edge over NCAA DIII, Stevenson.
The Tampa Bay Lightning brought hockey to the Southeast in 1992 and have had a better season so far than their in-state rival, the Florida Panthers. The Wheeling Nailers and the Norfolk Admirals both represent their home states in the ECHL. The South Carolina Stingrays ousted their in-state rivals, the Greenville Swamp Rabbitts as the best team in the state. Another ECHL team, the Atlanta Gladiators, have filled the hockey void in Georgia since the Thrashers left town in 2011. In Kentucky, Arkansas, and Mississippi the ACHA is the highest level of hockey. Its no joke either with Ole Miss winning the most recent SEC Hockey Conference title and Kentucky averaging over 1,000 fans every night. The Hurricanes and Predators each have enjoyed recent success and have given hockey a spark in a region more known for college football. The Huntsville Havoc have led the SPHL in attendance for the past five seasons and captured league titles in 2018 and 2019. The last team in the Southeast calls Louisiana home, the Shreveport Mudbugs, who have played in the NAHL since 2016.
Of the twelve states in this region, five of them are home to NHL teams. Like the Devils in New Jersey, Detroit had another disappointing season but remains the top team in the state of Michigan. The St. Louis Blues followed up their Stanley Cup-winning season with another great campaign in 2019-20. The Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, and Wild are also the only NHL teams in their respective states. The Fort Wayne comets finished higher in the ECHL standings than the Indy Fuel, who also call Indiana home. The Midwest is also home to the USHL, the top junior league in the United States, but with pro and college teams prominent throughout the region, none of their teams were represented on this map. The University of North Dakota and the University of Nebraska-Omaha, both members of the NCHC, represented their home states. The Milwaukee Admirals and Iowa Wild are the lone AHL representatives in this region. Lastly, in the ECHL, the Rapid City Rush of South Dakota and the Wichita Thunder of Kansas remain the only forms of pro hockey in their states.
With Texas taking up so much of the Southwest, this region is only home to four teams. Starting with the NHL teams, the Coyotes have been the only NHL team in Arizona since they moved from Winnipeg in 1996. The Dallas Stars have been the only NHL team in the Lone Star State and the first in this region since the North Stars left Minnesota in 1993. The next best team in the state is the Dallas AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars. The Tulsa Oilers represent the state of Oklahoma, playing in the ECHL. After several attempts made to make pro hockey work in New Mexico, the NAHL added the New Mexico Ice Wolves in 2019, but due to the virus, their inaugural season was cut short.
There's a wide variety of teams out in the West. It was a tough year for California teams in the NHL, with Anaheim, San Jose, and LA at the bottom of the Western Conference. The Ducks, however, were the best of those three teams. The Avalance and Golden Knights, are both the only NHL teams in their respective states. Oregon and Washington are the only states in the US represented by Canadian major junior teams with the Portland Winterhawks and the Everett Silvertips. Utah and Idaho are both home to ECHL teams, the Steelheads, and the Grizzlies. It's Montana and Wyoming where things start to get pretty interesting in this region. Both states are home to ACHA teams, but after a little digging into the hockey culture in those states the Black Diamond Hockey League was discovered. It's a Senior A division of USA Hockey located in the Western United States that features former college and pro players. Montana is home to the Bozeman Stingers while Wyoming is home to the Jackson Hole Moose.
Not to be left out by the 48 contiguous United States, Alaska, and Hawaii are also apart of the hockey community. In Alaska, after talks over the offseason of the state school potentially combining athletic programs, the University of Alaska Fairbanks had a far better season than their neighbors at the University of Alaska Anchorage who only squeaked out four wins. Alaska is also home to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and the Kenai River Brown Bears of the NAHL. Although there is a rink on one of Hawaii's islands, there is no competitive hockey team to call the state home. The Ice Palace in Honolulu is home to the Hawaiian Hockey Club, which operates an adult hockey league on the island.
Did your favorite team make the map? Let us know if you think we left a team out!