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Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Updated: September 23, 12:34 PM ET
No. 7: Pittsburgh Penguins

By Scott T. Miller
ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 19
Title track: 10
Ownership: 4
Coaching: 35
Players: 11
Fan relations: 2
Affordability: 41
Stadium Experience 4
Bang for the Buck 20

It's hard to trump what the Penguins did on the ice last season: 72 points (second in the NHL), 3.4 goals per game (best in the league) and a second-place finish from Sidney Crosby in the MVP voting. But the reason the Pens again find themselves in our top 10 go beyond the plexiglass: Their owners (ranked No. 4 overall) realize that building a sparkling arena, which they did in 2010, is only the first step in improving the fan experience. Giveaways for signed helmets, free tickets and game-worn jerseys dotted the calendar last season as the Penguins expanded their fan appreciation night to six days in late April. The Pens' vast fan base -- 1.3 million likes on Facebook is fourth in the NHL -- returned the favor by showing up in droves (270 consecutive sellouts) and ranking the franchise second overall in the fan relations category (sixth consecutive year in the top six). As YouTube (Yinstube?) sensation Pittsburgh Dad says: "Aw you might as well start etchin' der names in da Stanley Cup right naw. Cawl Wheaties put der faces on dat box. Iron city cans. Da whole nine yards. Cause der gonna win."