“It’s a hat trick for Pittsburgh Penguins fans,” declares Forbes magazine. “They take the top spot on our list of The NHL’s Best Fans for the third straight time.”

The rankings for best fan base were based on five fan engagement criteria: hometown crowd reach (defined as a percentage of the local population that watched, attended, and/or listened to a game in the last year), 3 years worth of television ratings, 3 years of arena attendance based on capacity reached, 3 years worth of merchandise sales, and social media reach (a combination of Facebook likes and Twitter TWTR +1.48% followers). All that and Sidney Crosby had the best selling sweater in the past year.

“Penguins fans were the clear winners. According to market researchers Nielsen Scarborough, 56% of adult Pittsburghers (that’s a real nickname) are fans of their team, one of the largest in the league. It’s nothing new, at least not this last decade. Since 2006, the Pens, Detroit Red Wings (ranked No. 7 on our list) and Buffalo Sabres (ranked No. 8) have swapped their order as top 3 in terms of largest local fan base.”

Interesting factoid: according to Bill Nielsen, vp at Nielsen Scarborough, “NHL fans are more technically savvy and engaged in social networking than fans of the other three major sports.”

“His research shows that NHL fans are 21% more likely than the average adult to spend 3+ hours a day on social media accessing them through their mobile device, 10% more likely accessing from any electronic device. NFL and NBA fans are still more likely to spend more time than the average adult on social media but fall short of NHL fan numbers. MLB fans are less likely to spend time on social media. So figuring which NHL fans are engaged the most with their team’s social network sites is interesting to monitor. It presents a new and unique way for the league and its teams to reach and expand their fan base.”

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