Pittsburgh is Hockey Crazy
With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at the helm of the Penguins, the team has seen a popularity boom in Pittsburgh not dissimilar to what happened in the city when a young French-Canadian named Mario Lemieux joined the team in the mid-1980s. Following back-to-back wins prior to last season, the franchise has likely never been more popular in the city.
At a time where the Steelers have seen issues on and off the field and the Pirates remain the not especially exciting resident baseball club, the Penguins have capitalized on intense rivalries, superstar players, winning ways, and outreach into the community to build a rabid fan base.
When the Penguins play, the city tunes in. Year after year, the Penguins have put forward some of the best local ratings for games in the entire league, constantly outpacing larger television markets.
The truly amazing part is that even when the Penguins aren’t playing, they manage to do the same. During the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals, the Trib pointed out that:
"Even though the Penguins were bounced in the second round, Pittsburgh remains the top market in the country with a 4.21 rating, leading Vegas (3.17), Buffalo (2.95), Nashville (2.52), Tampa (2.41) and Washington (2.11)"
This is a city that has seen growth not just in fandom of their NHL franchise, but in love of the game. From the time Sidney Crosby laced up the skates for the first time in black and gold, young kids throughout the area started seeing themselves on the ice, too. Youth hockey, associations, indoor and outdoor rink, and programs have exponentially developed in the past decade in Pittsburgh in ways that few could’ve predicted.
There are few areas in the country that can compete with what Pittsburgh puts forward in terms of hockey fandom and the ones I’d list (Boston, Minnesota, etc) already have an NWHL team.